Thursday, 22 November 2012 08:12
The indigenous group that rejected a financial package from Fortescue Metals Group in exchange for the right to mine their land - but were pipped by a breakaway claimant group - said there was still room for an amicable outcome.
The Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) said it was not represented by the breakaway Wirlu-Murra group, which accepted a financial package from Fortescue in exchange for the right to develop its Solomon iron ore mine in Western Australia's East Pilbara.
YAC previously rejected doing a deal with Fortescue as its offer was well below similar agreements it had entered into with Rio Tinto.
The stoush has raged for some time, including in court, but has hit headlines again after an ABC TV report on Tuesday night.
The report featured Kerry Savas, a lawyer who was said to have worked for Fortescue to help the Wirlu-Murra people, and who claimed the group was hastily convened to shore up support for the miner's plans at a rigged meeting in Roebourne last year.
But Fortescue said it "absolutely denies" Mr Savas's claim that it acted "illegally" by failing to negotiate in good faith.
The miner said Mr Savas acted independently for the Wirlu-Murra people, whose legal fees were paid by Fortescue, "as we do with all of the native title parties with whom we deal, to meet our obligations to negotiate in good faith pursuant to the Native Title Act".
"The National Native Title Tribunal, the Federal Court and the full Federal Court have all confirmed that Fortescue negotiated in good faith, which included paying the native title party's legal costs," the miner said.
YAC CEO Michael Woodley said there was still a chance peace could be made with the Wirlu-Murra and that YAC could do its own deal with Fortescue.
"There's still the opportunity, the possibility, of making an agreement with FMG where we all win," Mr Woodley told AAP.
"If FMG don't want to pay proper compensation, then we won't sign and we'll take our matter further through the Federal Court and after winning native title, claim compensation from FMG.
"All we have is a difference of opinion."
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