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Gulf Communities Agreement

Date: 1 September 1997
Sub Category:Framework Agreement | Future Act Agreement (Native Title Act) | Land Transfer Agreement
Place:Gulf of Carpentaria
State/Country:Northwest Queensland, Australia
Alternative Names:
  • GCA
  • Subject Matter:Compensation | Cultural Heritage | Economic Development | Education | Employment and Training | Health and Community Services | Land Transaction | Mining and Minerals | Native Title
    Summary Information:
    The Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA) was negotiated between Pasminco Century Mine Limited, the Queensland Government and three native title groups - the Waanyi, Mingginda, and Gkuthaarn and Kikatj - under the right to negotiate provisions of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). This agreement, which was signed in May 1997, came into effect in September 1997 when Pasminco purchased the Century Mine project from Rio Tinto. The Century Mine is expected to close in 2015.
    Detailed Information:

    It should first be noted that since the making of this agreement, Pasminco collapsed and was re-launched as Zinifex. Then in 2008, Zinifex merged with Oxiana Limited to become OZ Minerals.

    Agreement overview

    The GCA is a comprehensive agreement that seeks to achieve long term objectives and provide benefits to all parties.

    The GCA covers a wide range of issues and commitments, including social impact assessments, health facilities, the development of local businesses, compensation at the mine site and along the pipeline corridor, strategic plan funding, employment and training.

    A number of committees have been established to oversee environmental issues and employment and training under the GCA (MMG, 2010, 2, 3; Zinifex Century Mine, 2008, 4). A legal trust called the Aboriginal Development Benefits Trust has been established, consisting primarily of local Aboriginal community members who manage Century Mine's contributed funds for business development (Rio Tinto Aboriginal Policy and Programs, Briefing Note, March 2002; MMG, 2008, 3).

    Some specific commitments have been made under the GCA in the following areas:

    Schedule 1: Queensland government assistance

  • Pursuant to Schedule 1 of the GCA, the Queensland government has committed to carrying out a social impact assessment to identify issues and concerns in the region.

  • The government has also committed to assisting the Waanyi Native Title Group with their claim in relation to Boodjamulla National Park.

  • The government has also agreed to provide road improvements, culturally appropriate birthing centres, funding for training and funds for the development of a Men's Business association.

  • Schedule 2: Employment and training

  • Under Schedule 2, Century has agreed to fund initiatives such as a prevocational traineeship and apprenticeship transition program and literacy and numeracy training for trainees and employees.

  • Century has also committed to provide support for Aboriginal employees and potential recruits through a Community and Stakeholder Relations team, as well as Community Liaison Officers.

  • Schedule 5: lands

    Pursuant to Schedule 5, five pastoral lease holdings (Lawn Hill, Riversleigh, Turn-off Lagoon, Pendine and Konka) were to be transferred back to their traditional owners. So far, the holdings that have been transferred are the Turn-off Lagoon property, as well as the Pendine and Konka properties (MMG, 2010, 3).

    Schedules 7 and 8: the Gulf Aboriginal Development Corporation

    The Gulf Aboriginal Development Corporation (GADC) was established under the GCA at the request of the Waanyi, Mingginda, and Gkuthaarn and Kikatj native title parties, in order to represent their interests during the implementation phase and the entire life of the agreement (MMG, 2010, 4). It plays an important coordination and facilitation role in the continuing operation of the agreement (Zinifex Century Mine, 2008, 3).


    Research on employment outcomes

    In April 2004, the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining released a research paper on Aboriginal employment at the Century Mine. This paper found that the Century Mine employed a higher proportion of local Aboriginal people than most other remote mining operations in Australia (CSRM, 2004, i). Since the mine first became operational, Aboriginal employees accounted for between 15% and 20% of the total workforce. The mine was also recruiting at a rate of around 50 new Aboriginal employees a year.

    On a less positive note, Aboriginal employment at the mine was largely restricted to entry level positions, with few Aboriginal employees progressing to supervisory roles. Likewise, few Aboriginal employees were working in areas that required formal qualifications - although the research summary acknowledged that Century was making an effort to change this by investing in apprenticeships (CSRM, 2004, i).

    Ten-year review

    A ten-year review into the GCA was conducted in 2008 (ABC News, 2008; Department of Infrastructure and Planning, 2008). The review was overseen by a Steering Committee made up of representatives of the Queensland government, the Century Mine and the native title groups affected by the agreement (MMG, 2010, 4).

    The review called for 'increased government effort' in relation to the GCA, stating that 'a renewed commitment to the GCA was required over the remaining life of the ensure that employment and enterprise development benefits to native title groups [were] maximised' (Department of Infrastructure and Planning, 2008).

    More specifically, the review made a number of recommendations for possible improvements to the agreement, including:

  • the formation of a new GCA Management Board, a Gulf Business Forum and a Young Leaders Forum;
  • better strategic planning in terms of the delivery of the agreement;

  • better monitoring of GCA outcomes;

  • the release of $5.7 million by the Queensland government for the purpose of carrying out a social impact assessment; and

  • new initiatives in governance and leadership training for signatory native title groups (MMG, 2010, 4; Oz Minerals, 2008, 1).

  • In response to the review recommendations, the GCA Management Board was formed in May 2008. The aim of the Board is to ensure that the recommendations of the review are implemented to ensure maximum benefits for all the parties (Oz Minerals, 2008, 1).

    Research on general outcomes for Gulf communities

    In July 2008, the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining released a research paper on the implications of the completion of the Century Mine on Gulf communities. This paper found that the Century Mine has had the following impacts on the Gulf region:

  • an increase in income flows into the region;

  • the provision of numerous job and training opportunities, with over 600 local Aboriginal people obaining work at the mine up to mid-2007, and 200 undertaking mine-based pre-vocational training;

  • the facilitation of the development of some indigenous enterprises;

  • an increase in the amount of land under Aboriginal control (largely through the transfer of pastoral leases under the GCA);

  • improvements in local roads; and

  • increased geographic mobility (CSRM, 2008, iv).

  • The CSRM study also found, however, that the following problems continue to affect the region:

  • uneven distribution of employment and financial benefits;

  • low levels of conversion of mining income into savings or long-term assets;

  • low rate of establishment of indigenous enterprises;

  • overcrowded, low-quality housing;

  • relatively poor health and education outcomes; and

  • problems with the standard of governance in community representative bodies (CSRM, 2008, iv, v).

  • Related Entries

  • Memorandum of Understanding to Increase Indigenous Employment in the Queensland Resources Sector and Related Indigenous Enterprise Development
  • Waanyi People Boodjamulla National Park Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA)
  • Aplin on behalf of the Waanyi Peoples v State of Queensland (No 3) [2010] FCA 1515
  • Organisation
  • MMG Century Ltd - Signatory
  • State of Queensland - Signatory
  • Century Zinc Limited
  • Legislation
  • Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)
  • Century Zinc Project Act 1997 (Qld)
  • People
  • Waanyi People - Signatory
  • Mingginda People - Signatory
  • Gkuthaarn and Kukatj People - Signatory

  • References

    Queensland Consolidated Acts (1997) Century Zinc Project Act 1997 (Qld)


    Framework Agreement | Future Act Agreement (Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)) (Australia) | Land Transfer Agreement

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