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Australian Aboriginal landowners approve manganese mine expansion plan

[SYDNEY] Australia's South32, the world biggest producer of manganese, has reached an in-principle agreement with traditional indigenous land owners at Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, over the expansion of a mine there, a company spokeswoman said.

The expansion plan has not received the required government approval, but a South32 spokeswoman told Reuters the plan could extend the lifespan and expand the scale of Groote Eylandt's GEMCO manganese mine, a joint venture in which South32 holds a controlling 60 per cent stake and Anglo American holds the remaining 40 per cent.

The support of the traditional land owners was a "key step"on the way to final approval, the spokeswoman said.

The Australian newspaper reported on Saturday that the traditional owners, represented by the Anindilyakwa Land Council, last week gave their consent to the idea, which would secure them future royalties.

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"To me and my people, it's a good deal," Anindilyakwa chairman Tony Wurramarrba told the paper, while expressing reservations over the mine's destruction of his ancestral country.

"When the first bulldozers came, the old people actually cried," Wurramarrba was quoted as saying. "Now we're addicted to royalties we haven't known what to do with."

Australia's indigenous affairs minister, Nigel Scullion, who must approve any formal deal between traditional owners and South32 said in a statement that he welcomed the progress made by the miner and the traditional owners in their negotiations. He had yet to receive any agreement between the parties for his approval.