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Making & Implementing Agreements with Indigenous Communities: A Case Study of the Gulf Communities Agreement
Published by: CSRM
Century Mine, in the lower Gulf of Carpentaria region of far north-west Queensland, ceased zinc production in late 2015 after 16 years of operation. This makes it one of the most significant planned mine closures in Queensland, and indeed Australia, in decades. It is also an important milestone with regard to the landmark Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA) that has governed relations between the traditional owners of the region and the mine owners since 1997.
This paper provides a brief account of the history of the GCA and the outcomes it has delivered. It also draws out lessons for other projects in Australia and overseas that have local-level agreements with Indigenous Peoples, or will be required or expected to develop these in the future.
The paper is the outcome of a collaboration between MMG Century management and CSRM staff who were involved in conducting a 15-year review of the GCA in 2013.The paper also draws on the earlier five- and ten-year reviews, as well as other studies undertaken by CSRM and other researchers (including Blowes and Trigger’s comprehensive account of the negotiation of the GCA, as seen from the perspective of the native title parties1). In addition, valuable historical details and insights were obtained from a roundtable in November 2014 hosted by CSRM and MMG Century, which was attended by eleven people who had played a prominent role in negotiating or implementing the GCA at various stages. The roundtable represented a mix of company, government and community perspectives.