Nyiyaparli People and Capricorn Metals
Karlawinda Gold Land Access Agreement
In early 2016, Capricorn Metals
acquired the Karlawinda gold project in Western Australia, located 65
kilometres south-east of the town of Newman, within the Nyiyaparli native
title claim area.
After an extensive drilling campaign, Capricorn Metals released a maiden
ore reserve and announced that by the end of 2017, it would complete a
definitive feasibility study of the Bibra Gold Deposit, a substantial gold
deposit first discovered in 2009.
To advance the Karlawinda gold project, Capricorn Metals completed a land
access agreement with the traditional owners, the Nyiyaparli people, in
November 2016. The entire process took six months, and the agreement
enabled the Western Australian Government Department of Mines and Petroleum
to grant a mining lease to Capricorn Metals.
‘Signing the land access agreement with the Nyiyaparli people in a
relatively short time reflected the willingness on both sides to facilitate
the development of a new gold project at Karlawinda, which will generate
local employment and opportunities,’ says Heath Hellewell, Executive
Chairman, Capricorn Metals.
Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
(YMAC) is the native title representative body for claims in the Pilbara,
Murchison and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia. YMAC represented the
Nyiyaparli people in negotiations with Capricorn Metals.
Simon Hawkins, CEO of YMAC, says land access agreements are the basis for
positive outcomes in traditional owners’ futures. He believes access
agreements such as the one between the Nyiyaparli people and Capricorn
Metals demonstrate how negotiating in good faith with traditional owners
can result in a positive outcome for both parties.
‘The fact that agreement was reached within six months shows that when
companies and traditional owners work together, negotiations can be
concluded in a timely fashion with mutually beneficial outcomes,’ says
A clear and open approach to negotiations
Representatives for the traditional owners and Capricorn Metals agreed to
hold an initial consultation meeting. This meeting did not form part of the
right-to-negotiate process under the Native Title Act 1993 but allowed the parties to discuss their aspirations,
expectations, goals and their time and resource limitations.
Capricorn Metals created a ‘term sheet’ outlining the proposed terminology
of the project agreement as a starting point for negotiations. This
enhanced the quality of the discussion at the initial negotiation meeting.
A Nyiyaparli working group sought independent economic advice on the
history of gold mining operations in Western Australia, current and
historical gold prices, and the history of the company and the project.
The working group evaluated the proposed land access agreement’s financial
and non-financial benefits to the Nyiyaparli people against other gold
mining agreements, covering (among other things) concepts of ‘fairness’ and
Capricorn Metals capacity to pay.
As traditional owners, the Nyiyaparli working group was already familiar
with the project area through historical and contemporary occupation of the
area, as well as previous cultural heritage surveys and engagement with
previous tenement holders.
Both parties were keen to reach a fair and swift agreement and there was
genuine engagement on issues that were important to each party. Discussion
was facilitated by each party’s legal representatives.
‘Our discussions and negotiations that led to signing the land access
agreement were very positive and productive,’ says Hellewell.
‘It was a very encouraging start to our ongoing relationship with the
Nyiyaparli people and we look forward to working with them in the future as
we develop our project for the benefit of all stakeholders.
‘We are particularly excited about the potential for local opportunities
our project will bring. The process to obtain the agreement was very
smooth, involving a meeting in Perth and two meetings in Port Hedland. The
Nyiyaparli people were very commercial in their approach to negotiating the
Terms and conditions of the land access agreement
The land access agreement gives the consent of the Nyiyaparli people to
Capricorn Metals to develop, construct and operate the Karlawinda gold
The consent is limited to tenure and approvals applied for by, and granted
to, Capricorn Metals’ subsidiary Greenmount Resources, for the dominant
purpose of conducting gold mining operations.
The company must make milestone and production payments for the life of the
project as compensation for any interference to, or impairment of, the
Nyiyaparli people’s ability to exercise their native title rights and
interests. Initial milestone payments are linked to the signing of the
agreement, the decision to proceed and the first gold sale.
In the long term, there will be a level of certainty regarding protection
of Nyiyaparli cultural heritage. It is anticipated the Nyiyaparli people
will receive compensation payments from the commencement of commercial
production until the end of the project.
The Nyiyaparli people may also receive contracting and employment
opportunities under the agreement. These opportunities will depend on the
economic viability of the project and gold prices.
Karlka Nyiyaparli Aboriginal Corporation
Karlka Nyiyaparli Aboriginal Corporation (Karlka) is the Nyiyaparli
people’s agent under the land access agreement and is responsible for
overseeing its implementation.
Capricorn Metals agreed to pay the reasonable costs of the Nyiyaparli
people (acting through Karlka) to implement the agreement and conduct
cultural heritage and environmental surveys.
‘Our heritage and the environment are very much linked,’ says Edith Hall,
Chairperson of Karlka. ‘As traditional owners, we want to work with
companies like Capricorn Metals to protect our heritage and the environment
for future generations.’
The Nyiyaparli people are the traditional owners of approximately 36,684
square kilometres of land and waters in the east Pilbara region. Nyiyaparli
country is located to the south of the town of Marble Bar and includes the
area around the town of Newman and the pastoral stations of Roy Hill,
Balfour Downs, Ethel Creek and others.
Nyiyaparli traditional owners also have significant mining benefit
agreements with Australia’s major iron ore miners including BHP, Rio Tinto,
Fortescue Metals Group and Hancock Prospecting, all of whom have mining
operations and tenements on Nyiyaparli country.
'Our heritage and the environment are very much linked.'
Edith Hall, Chairperson, Karlka Nyiyaparli Aboriginal Corporation
Image 1: Location of the Karlawinda Gold Project. Source: Capricorn Metals
Image 2: Members of the heritage survey team. Source: Capricorn Metals.