The Century Mine Dispute

In 1999, the world’s biggest zinc mine commenced operation in the traditional country of the Waanyi People. The opening of the Century Mine took place ten years to the day after the massive zinc ore body was discovered.

Century Zinc Mine

Native title negotiations surrounding the mine were long, bitter and acrimonious. The Native Title Act commenced operation in 1994, with the proposed Century Mine leases representing  the first future act to be dealt with under the new Act’s arbitration provisions.

In its developmental  stages, the mine was owned by mining giant, CRA. In 1996 CRA issued one of several ultimatums - if the native title claimants did not agree to sign up, the mine would be abandoned and the traditional owners would lose the compensation package that had been offered. In a David and Goliath battle, CLCAC sought to support the native title claimants in their quest to ensure that an appropriate compensation  package was secured and proper cultural heritage protections were put in place.

The main concern of the traditional owners was the method of transporting ore from the mine site to the coast. Murrandoo Yanner, then CEO of CLCAC, and Jerry Callope of the Gkuthaarn Aboriginal Corporation, opposed the pipeline on environmental grounds.

In October 1994, the native title groups and other traditional owners from the region organised a 3 week sit in at Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park to demand the right of the Waanyi People to have more say in the management of the Park and to protest against the unacceptable levels of possible environmental damage from the Mine.

Better environmental protection measures were sought and the native title claimants finally approved the Century Mine compensation package in 1997.

In November 2002, however, more that  200 traditional owners staged another sit in, this time at the mine site. They entered the mine site after a break down in negotiations with new owner Pasminco over a review of mine operations and poor employment opportunities for traditional owners.

Mine Dispute news clipping

The mine’s current owner, MMG, is preparing to end open cut zinc production in 2015.