The much-anticipated case between Adani and a handful of Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners seeking to invalidate the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) for the Carmichael coal mine had its final day of hearings on Monday. The outcome could have severe ramifications for Adani, who need an ILUA to obtain financial backing for the multi-billion dollar project.
The mining conglomerate authorised the ILUA at a meeting in April 2016, where Adani say a group of Wangan and Jagalingou people voted 294 to one in favour of signing the agreement, which promised to bring jobs and economic benefits to Traditional Owners in exchange for the extinguishment of native title over sections of land.
The ILUA was then certified by Queensland South Native Title Services, and registered by the National Native Title Tribunal in December 2017. It was originally endorsed by seven out of 12 Wangan and Jagalingou native title claimants, but one claimant, Craig Dallen, has since withdrawn his support, leaving the group split down the middle.
Native title claimants opposed to the mine have taken legal action to invalidate what they call a "sham" ILUA.
They allege that the April 2016 meeting included large numbers of people who had no claim to native title in the area, and were therefore not authorised to make the decision. They also claim that Adani didn't make "reasonable efforts" to identify and include all potential native title holders in the April meeting. Lastly, the anti-Adani group alleges that the mining company failed to properly identify the sections of land where native title would be extinguished, as required by law.
Adani's barrister, backed by the Queensland Government's counsel, argued that "all reasonable efforts" had been made to include and identify potential native title holders at the April meeting. He claimed that even if it were proven that some in attendance were not Wangan and Jagalingou people, organisers were only legally required to make "all reasonable efforts", as opposed to conducting a "mini trial" for all attendees.
Responding to allegations that Adani didn't identify where native title would be extinguished, Adani's lawyer claimed that the ILUA provided for the surrender of native title "anywhere within the surrender zone", not exceeding 2750 hectares. He claimed that the description of the land was accompanying information, and not part of the ILUA application itself.
Justice John Reeves has reserved his decision, which is expected to be delivered in the coming months.
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