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 Hawkins.

A clear and open approach to negotiations

 Karlawinda Gold Project

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 agreement.’

Terms and conditions of the land access agreement

Members of the heritage survey team.

The land access agreement gives the consent of the Nyiyaparli people to Capricorn Metals to develop, construct and operate the Karlawinda gold project.

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.