After blocking the Queensland State Government’s attempt to award the lease to multinational mining company Glencore, the traditional owners of the Wik and Wik Way land in Cape York have signed an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with competing mine company Aurukun Bauxite Developments (ABD).
The agreement will ensure that the representatives for the Wik and Wik Way native title holders, Ngan Aak Kunch (NAK), will receive 15 per cent equity interest in the mining operations.
Wik Way traditional owner Gina Castelain said the deal was important to the Wik and Wik Way people because of the opportunities it would offer, stating that ownership was key.
“We want to have a real stake in the mine and to participate fully in the development of RA315 lease,” Ms Castelain said.
“We don’t want just royalties and sit-down money anymore – we want ownership … For the first time in many decades we have a real prospect of independence, of full participation in the mainstream economy and culture.
“Into a depressing landscape of passive welfare dependency, substance dependency, violence and abuse, a distant light now shines and that is our Indigenous land use agreement with Aurukun Bauxite Development.”
According to an interview Ms Castelain did with the ABC, the agreement is a welcome break from more than 50 years of failed dealings with other mining operations in the area, which not benefit the native community.
“We’ve seen no flow-on effect to our communities of the wealth they generated from our lands – our job and household income situation is amongst the worst in the state .. [the] agreement will change all that – the future holds so much more promise for our people now,” she said.
Queensland Indigenous Affairs Minister Glen Elmes said that companies, such as Glencore, needed to communicate with traditional land owners to ensure the native people would benefit from mining developments.
“One of the reasons why it’s taken so long is the Government wanted to make sure first and foremost that the benefits of this mine would be returned to the people of Aurukun … If I were Glencore, I’d probably start talking to the people of Aurukun, but most importantly it’s about the benefits that flow to the people of Aurukun,” Mr Elmes said.