Traditional owners of Adani’s proposed mine site will keep their native title rights unless the Indian corporation can prove it has finance in place for the multi-billion-dollar project, the Queensland Government says.
- Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said Adani must prove financing before native title is extinguished
- The ALP voted to acknowledge the dispute with traditional owners at a recent state conference
- The Government has been urged to rule out title extinguishment while court appeals are underway
It follows pressure within the Labor Party for the State Government to hold off sealing Adani’s takeover of the Carmichael mine site, which would permanently wipe out a native title claim by the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people.
Adani, which this week unveiled a cut-price rail plan in a bid to attract investors, had previously urged the Government to go ahead with converting the site to freehold because it had an Indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) with the W&J.
But Mines Minister Anthony Lynham gave the first public confirmation the Government was following the position resolved at this month’s state Labor conference, which recognised the ILUA was “contested amongst traditional owners”.
The resolution, obtained by the ABC, said: “The Queensland Government only acts to resume land for projects when a project has the financial capacity to complete the project.”
It was put forward at the conference by Stuart Traill, an organiser from the influential Electrical Trades Union.
The motion passed unopposed.
Last month, the Federal Court upheld Adani’s ILUA, but mine opponents in the W&J — who unsuccessfully argued it was a “sham agreement” — filed an appeal on Wednesday.
Part of the proposed site for the Adani mine in central Queensland. (Supplied: Lock the Gate Alliance)
W&J spokesman Adrian Burragubba has previously declared they would take their fight to the High Court.
The ABC asked Mr Lynham if the Government would insist on Adani reaching financial certainty before it extinguished native title rights on the mine site.
In a statement, the Minister repeated the wording of the Labor conference resolution.
“The Government has maintained that Adani needs to prove they can reach financial close [certainty] before we finalise processes for this project,” he said.
Mr Lynham also said Labor “recognises the right of Mr Burragubba to have his claim that the ILUA was not properly made determined by a court”.
An Adani spokeswoman said the company welcomed last month’s Federal Court decision in its favour.
“We look forward to working with the State Government and the traditional owners to take the next steps in order to finalise land tenure for our project,” she said.
W&J mine opponent Linda Bobongie told the ABC the group was “glad the state ALP passed the resolution calling for financial close before any transfer of our land to Adani”.
She called on the Government to go further and “rule out extinguishing our native title, at least while our appeals to the higher courts are running”.
She also accused Mr Lynham of “perpetuating the mischief that Mr Burragubba is acting alone, whereas we represent and uphold four decisions of our claim group to reject an ILUA with Adani”.
Tim Buckley, an analyst from the pro-renewables Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said Adani was closer to its goal after announcing a rail plan that was $1 billion cheaper.
“But Adani has worn the financial risk for eight years on a project that might never get to fruition, and it’s still nowhere near financial close today,” he said.