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8.8.02

Court Rules Aborigines Have No Right To Minerals

Australia's highest court ruled on Thursday that Aborigines had no rights to mineral or petroleum resources in a landmark decision viewed as a victory for the mining industry that could scupper other native title claims.

The High Court also clarified that while mining and farming leases granted by the government did not necessarily extinguish Aboriginal claims to the land, the leases did prevail over native title rights in any conflict of interest.

"The court has held that there is no native title right to any minerals or petroleum," High Court Chief Justice Murray Gleeson told the court.

The complex, 500-page judgement was welcomed by the resources sector because if the court had ruled differently, mining companies may have been legally bound to compensate Aborigines or grant them royalties.


Well, at least the Aussies are honest about it, which means it might be open to a direct challenge. Of course, given how resistant John Howard has been to apologizing for the terrible things the government did to Aborigines over the past 200 years, I somehow doubt parliament will be jumping to pass a bill granting Aborigines mineral rights. The U.S. pretends that Native Americans are going to get money from the lands that the federal government administers on their behalf, but bureaucratic masmanagement (which is in some ways understandable -- it doesn't win you many votes to make reform of the BIA a campaign priority) means they don't see much of the proceeds.

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