THE NSW Minerals Council says it will work alongside any landholder including the Plains Clans of the Wonnarua People who won a lengthy legal battle in the National Native Title Tribunal.
The tribunal ruled on Friday that the group ‘‘speaks for country’’ over a 10,000 square kilometre area that stretches from Maitland in the east to beyond Muswellbrook in the west and from south of Cessnock to the Barrington Tops and Scone in the north.
The ruling means that coal companies will be forced to negotiate with the Wonnarua people over future mining projects.
A spokesman for the NSW Minerals Council, Brad Emery, said that while the council was still studying the ruling, the Hunter Valley mining industry would continue to work with landholders regardless.
‘‘The Hunter Valley mining industry has a long history of working closely with anyone involved when it comes to things like exploration such as landholders and landowners and that won’t change,’’ Mr Emery said.
‘‘However, as an industry we need to have a closer look at this decision before we make any further comment.’’
The decision means that the Plains Clans of the Wonnarua People must be notified about all proposals, not just mining projects, relating to applications over Crown land in the registered area.
The tribunal accepted that applicants Scott Franks and Robert Lester were direct descendants of two Aboriginal women born at Singleton and Broke in 1800 and 1840.
They also had to demonstrate that the women’s descendants had maintained direct and significant connections with the region.
The decision came after a lengthy and expensive battle for the Wonnarua people to be able to negotiate with mining companies.
They had complained that too many mining projects had been signed off by consultants before causing significant damage to culturally significant sites.