The High Court of Australia has today ruled that native title rights are ‘not inconsistent’ with the rights of mineral lease holders.
That ruling backs up an earlier decision by the full Federal Court in relation to a five-year native title dispute over the Pilbara region in the north of Western Australia.
The Ngarla people were granted native title over thousands of square kilometres of land and water in 2007, which included the former Mount Goldsworthy iron ore mining lease.
That lease had been established under a State Agreement with the WA Government in the 1960s and allowed access for anyone except those interfering with mining activities.
The mine was closed in 1982. In 2012, the Federal Court ruled that native title rights existed for the Ngarla people but could not be exercised while the mineral lease was in force.
That was challenged by the WA Government, but today the High Court found right for camping, hunting and holding traditional ceremonies were not extinguished by the lease, and the two could co-exist.