Conference paper

I will now address the content of negotiated mining agreements. However, as I have already said, I will not present a matrix of economic options. The reason is that the options are context - specific and potentially limitless; hence, they cannot be captured in such a simple way. Summaries of past deals are available and, whilst providing guidance, this kind of analysis also serves to constrain.

I believe it is entirely appropriate that the options for negotiation are unlimited. I know that a large section of the mining industry, and many Aboriginal interests, seek simplicity in a limited menu of options in the negotiation process. The reasons for this are understandable; it is efficient, it helps take the heat out of the argument, it gives comfort that you are not going to be somehow ‘cheated’, and so on. But this approach actually misses the point.

Native Title and Aboriginal interest in land is not, primarily, about an economic imperative and not about productivity. As I have said, it seems to me that it is primarily about an Aboriginal relationship with country. Mining developers are seeking a relationship with country that is quite distinct to Aboriginal interest and, in order to earn that right, I believe they necessarily have to develop a relationship with the Aboriginal custodians. It is so important it is worth saying again. You cannot develop a relationship by running quickly down a list of menu items. There has to be a journey where people genuinely seek to learn something of each other’s view of the world. There has to be some pain, and hopefully, greater joy. In other words, the journey is all important and each agreement needs to be unique in its content and in the way it is reached.  

Publication Details
Source title:
Native Title Representative Bodies Legal Conference