The State Government, through the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority and the Department of Minerals and Energy, has devised a formula to give mining ventures controlled access to the Cosmo Newberry Aboriginal Reserves.
The plan which will initially enable one company to be granted an exploration licence is designed to minimise disturbance to the resident Aboriginal community and to protect areas of traditional significance.
The decision also means a number of prospecting licences lodged by Aboriginal people on the reserves will be granted.
The mining exploration company will be given access to an Exploration Licence already applied for in the Mount Venn area, about 160 kilometres north-east of Laverton. The further area of mineral significance is at the Cosmo Newberry settlement, but a three-kilometre buffer zone has been drawn around the settlement to protect it from any form of mining activity.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Judyth Watson said the scheme should reconcile conflicting interests and all tenement applications would be determined in accordance with Mining Act priorities.
She said there would be minimal social disruption because the community of about 50 people would be guaranteed to retain its living area as well as protection of sites of significance. The community's tenure was strengthened recently by the grant of a 99-year lease over the living area.
The successful company would need to conclude a legal agreement with the Aboriginal Lands Trust before entry to the reserve was granted and Aboriginal prospectors would need approval before there was any ground disturbance.
"The scheme should provide for exploration while minimising the degree of social and cultural disruption and maximising the economic benefit to the Aboriginal community," Dr Watson said.