Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Showdown over millions in mining royalties to Indigenous trust

Showdown over millions in mining royalties to Indigenous trust https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/showdown-over-millions-in-mining-royalties-to-indigenous-trust-20210719-p58b31.html, By Adele Ferguson and Deborah Snow, July 20, 2021 

A battle for control of millions of dollars in mining revenues that belong to the Adnyamathanha people of South Australia has erupted in the courts, as a trust company fights off efforts by a Commonwealth-appointed administrator to find out where the money has gone.

The revenues derive from two uranium mines operated by US-owned Heathgate Resources on the ancestral lands of the Adnyamathanha, in and around the Flinders Ranges.Adnyamathanha elder Tiger McKenzie says, “All we want is to see the finances.

For nearly two decades the mining company has paid the moneys into an Indigenous-run trust called Rangelea Holdings Pty Ltd, which is meant to hold and distribute the funds to all Adnyamathanha people based on their native title rights.

But Rangelea has refused to open the books to the broader Adnyamathanha community and is also refusing to open them to a special administrator appointed by the federal government regulator, the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations.

Instead the trust company has mounted a challenge in the courts.

Adnyamathanha man and community advocate Malcolm “Tiger” McKenzie said he was upset and angry at the latest legal developments.

“All we want is to see the finances. Why won’t Rangelea let us see them?” he said.

The case is being closely watched by the mining industry, with implications for Indigenous corporations around the country, which are also in receipt of mining funds.

Special administrator Peter McQuoid told the Herald he’d asked the mining companies, Heathgate and its affiliate Quasar Resources, to stop all payments to Rangelea until such time as Rangelea gave him access to the trust’s financial records.
An estimated $40 million has been paid to Rangelea by the miners since 2003, but many Adnyamathanha say they have seen very little benefit either to themselves or for the community.
Mr McQuoid has been pursuing the matter on behalf of the official native title holder to the lands, the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA), which has been under special administration since March last year.

Rangelea last week hit back in the Supreme Court of South Australia, seeking an injunction to force the mining companies to resume their payments to Rangelea.

Mr McQuoid told the Herald that “it’s a fundamental right of a trustee to keep beneficiaries informed as to how their money [royalties] have been spent or distributed”

“I would imagine there will be other trustees around Australia watching this case unfold,” he said.

He said the legal action brought by Rangelea had caused a lot of anxiety in the Adnyamathanha community but he wanted to assure everyone the mining payments were safe.

He described ATLA as “treading water” until such time as the Rangelea issues were resolved. “It is not going to get any easier over the next few months but it is important to get this sorted out,” he said.

Mr McQuoid said the suspension of payments came after several requests to meet Rangelea. But last week Rangelea rejected an offer for the National Native Title Tribunal to facilitate a mediation between ATLA, Rangelea, the regulator and the administrator. Instead, it rushed off to court.

Mr McKenzie said there was a lot of mistrust among Adnyamathanha people about how Rangelea was being run. “We don’t trust Rangelea,” he said.

He said the state of Native Title in Australia was disturbing. “With the resources that have come through over the years, we should be one of the strongest financial and political groups, and we aren’t,” he said.

He said ATLA was the tip of the iceberg and a royal commission was needed to be held to clean up the sector after years of abuse, including some entrenched native title hierarchies that have created a system where benefits get disproportionately directed to “certain families”.

The regulator issued a statement last month saying that, in 2020, Rangelea collected $4 million in royalties between January last year and March this year. “That is a lot of money, I couldn’t believe it,” Mr McKenzie said.

He said Rangelea needed to be wound up and begin again as a more transparent entity that the Adnyamathanha people could trust. No comment was available on Monday from Rangelea.

July 20, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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