Mirarr sign Ranger deal

Paddy Manning
The Age

AFTER 14 years' negotiation, Rio Tinto subsidiary Energy Resources Australia and traditional owners, the Mirarr people, have finally signed a new royalties agreement over the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory, two months after open-cut operations ceased.

The old deal, signed in 1978 and subjective of extensive subsequent litigation, provided for a 5.5 per cent royalty per tonne of yellowcake sold, to be split between traditional owners and the Commonwealth (receiving 4.25 per cent combined), and the Northern Territory government (1.25 per cent).

The new deal is commercial in confidence but provides increased funding to the Mirarr people, and the announcement helped lift ERA shares by 6 per cent or 7.5c to $1.41 on Thursday.

Senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula welcomed the agreement between ERA, Mirarr representative body the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC), as well as the federal government and the Northern Land Council, saying: ''We Mirarr are happy that today, after so long, we have a fairer agreement for mining at Ranger. My father never agreed to Ranger. Our right to stop the mine was taken away by the government. It is good that after all these years we have a better agreement for Mirarr.''

GAC executive officer Justin O'Brien said the Mirarr ''stand to get a lot more under the reconfiguration of the arrangements … [but the] draw on the mining company is not substantially different''.

He added: ''There is a degree of retrospectivity [including payment] of what I would describe as lost earnings. It's not exactly a song and dance that you get a better deal after 14 years of talks, in the twilight years of a mine.''

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