• Traditional Owners are concerned about the impact of streamlined environmental approvals for miners on their Country. (AAP)Source: AAP
The latest development in a legal battle between Fortescue and the Yindjibarndi people could result in a major windfall for Traditional Owners.
Rangi Hirini

21 Oct 2019 - 3:02 PM  UPDATED 21 Oct 2019 - 3:02 PM

Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group has failed to overturn a native title ruling covering its Solomon iron ore mine in Western Australia's Pilbara region.

The Federal Court recognised the Yindjibarndi people as having exclusive rights to more than 2700sq km of land, including the Solomon mine, in 2017.

Some have speculated that claim could result in compensation worth hundreds of millions of dollars, however the mining company says its financial exposure is minimal. Fortescue lodged an appeal but last Friday five Federal Court judges unanimously dismissed the case.

Michael Woodley, CEO of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation, welcomed the latest legal development.

“We’ve overcome the first hurdle, we’ve overcome the second hurdle, and we again stay firm in our belief and our position to come over whatever the next challenge is,” he said.

“We are confident that this decision will be upheld and it would be disappointing, on behalf of the Yindjibarndi nation, if FMG continues with this approach which is silly in all of its reasonings.”

Fortescue chief executive Elizabeth Gaines  said the company was considering an appeal to the High Court.

She said the company's mining tenure rights and current operations were unaffected.

“We are considering our next steps which may include an appeal to the High Court,” Ms Gaines said in a statement.

“The matter of compensation is an entirely separate matter and our legal advice is consistent with our previous view that there is no material financial impact to Fortescue following today’s decision.”

Ben Wyatt, WA Treasurer and Aboriginal Affairs Minister, congratulated the Traditional Owners.

“I urge FMG to work with the Yinjbarndi people for the benefit of all,” he said.

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