Gomeroi representatives signed a Native Title Agreement with Whitehaven Coal on Thursday, November 23, despite an angry protest at the planned event.
Whitehaven notified media the event had been “deferred” after up to 200 people gathered outside a Tamworth hotel to protest against the agreement.
Police were called and one person was treated by paramedics for minor head injuries after an alleged assault.
Seventeen people elected by the Gomeroi people later signed the agreement.
Gomeroi Nation member Dolly Talbott, of Gunnedah, said this morning while the Gomeroi representatives had been elected by the Gomeroi Nation, the applicants had “gone rogue”.
“At the last meeting the Nation had, we made decisions there, and resolutions were moved that these applicants must do all the things necessary to implement the resolutions of the Gomeroi people,” Ms Talbott said.
“They have not acted in accordance with those resolutions.
“The resolutions said they must not enact any future agreement that has the effect of impairing or otherwise effecting Native Title unless expressly authorised by the Gomeroi People Native Title Claim Group.”
Ms Talbott said the Native Title Claim Group had been left without any idea of what was included in the agreement.
Whitehaven Coal chief executive officer Paul Flynn yesterday said he was happy to have formally concluded an agreement with the elected representatives of the Gomeroi people.
He said it was disappointing that people who were not part of the elected group had disrupted the planned signing ceremony.
“It is extremely disappointing that, on a day we were meant to be celebrating an agreement that will markedly improve the lives of Indigenous people in the north-west, an unrepresentative group has sought to deprive them of this opportunity,” Mr Flynn said.
“The Native Title Applicants, as the democratically elected representatives of the Gomeroi Nation, are the only parties that have the authority to negotiate on the Nation’s behalf.
“Aside from a life of mine financial commitment, the agreement Whitehaven has struck covers employment, procurement of good and services, cultural heritage preservation and direct engagement in rehabilitation.”
The agreement includes 300 hectares of land north of the Maules Creek project.
Mr Flynn said yesterday the land would not be used for mining, but would be used to “improve efficiencies” of the mine.
Secretariat for the Native Title applicants Henry Pepper told media the details of the agreement should be publically available before the end of the year.
“I can assure you the information that really matters, the central information in the agreement that relates to Gomeroi people, will be on the website, and there’ll be a lot of information about other things that are going on as well.”
The NVI was unable to contact any of the Native Title applicants before going to print on November 24.
Ms Talbott said 19 people were originally elected about four years ago by the Gomeroi people. One has since died, and another, Jason Wilson, has stepped away from negotiations.
Mr Wilson said yesterday the agreement was not representative of what the Gomeroi people wanted.
Ms Talbott said the issue was about more than jobs and money.
“What it is about is access to our fishing rights and camping rights, access to country for ceremonies – where are all these things that are supposed to be included? We have had no say in it.”
About 50 people are believed to have interrupted the signing ceremony at the Ibis Hotel in Tamworth yesterday, while 200 people gathered outside the hotel.