Owners fight to receive royalties over native title claim

A COMPLEX legal fight over a native title claim could decide who receives royalties from several massive southern Queensland coal seam gas projects.

The long-running battle, which will be heard in the Federal Court in Brisbane later this week, dates back to a 2008 native title claim.

It involves several possible traditional owners in the region surrounding Roma, St George and Surat.

Among those fighting to be recognised as traditional owners are members of the Binge, Combarngo and Weribone families.

While most of the potential traditional owners were previously listed on the claim, a meeting in Roma nearly a year ago led to a competing claim.

It is also understood the mediation was first heard through the National Native Title Tribunal, but due to an administrative change the Federal Court is now handling the mediation process.

The case has also attracted the interest of numerous gas and mining companies operating in the region, including Origin Energy, Santos, QGC, Xstrata and Australia Pacific LNG.

Mining companies operating in accordance with any successful native title claim would need to provide compensation to the affected traditional owners.

The case has been in and out of mediation sessions and detailed legal hearings since the first claim was lodged by Leslie Weribone and others on behalf of the Mandandanji People in 2008.

Federal Court Justice Steven Rares presided over an interlocutory hearing in Canberra on Tuesday.

Justice Rares takes over the dispute resolution from the previous judge hearing the case, Justice John Reeves.

Evidence of the complexity of the matter was on display as Justice Rares dismissed a question Justice Reeves had ordered be considered.

It related to the ancestral background of the people disputing the claim.

Justice Rares said the order did not help to find an immediate resolution.

He ordered both parties return to negotiate a statement of facts regarding the Roma meeting where the decision was made on who were the rightful traditional owners.

Questions of ancestry and location should not be considered until the two groups could agree on what their arguments were, Justice Rares said.

Justice Rares said the statement of facts would be essential for him to be able to hear the details of the case later this week.



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