The Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) has become embroiled in a heated dispute with traditional land owners in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The mining company, headed by Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, is seeking access to land in the Pilbara for the planned Solomon Hub mining project, which is expected to provide several decades of iron ore production.
Yet the plan has met with fierce opposition from sections of the Yindjibarndi community, who are the traditional custodians of the land where FMG is planning to build. While some Yindjibarndi people are understood to support the Solomon Hub project, others have criticised the offer from FMG as too low.
FMG has offered $4 million per year in royalty payments for the Solomon Hub project, as well as approximately $6 million more in housing, training and business development for local people.
The Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation has been highly critical of the offer, and described FMG’s manoeuvres as the “great native title swindle”. The Aboriginal Corporation has published online material claiming that FMG is attempting to rort them out of the native title rights.
FMG has weighed into the online battle too, releasing video footage of a meeting between company executives and Yindjibarndi people, which allegedly demonstrates that a significant number of local people support the Solomon Hub project. The Aboriginal Corporation has responded to the video, claiming the footage is heavily edited and not a true representation of community sentiment.
The youth activist organisation GetUp has also become involved in the dispute, campaigning online against FMG, on behalf of the Yindjibarndi people. With both sides aggressively pushing their own version of events, the conflict shows no signs of abating in the near future.