Indigenous Peoples and Mining Negotiations: The Role of the State
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Resource development is often presented as a panacea for the problems endemic within Indigenous communities, particularly those remote Indigenous communities with few other options for economic opportunities. However, research to date suggests that the benefits from mineral development are often not realised by Indigenous people, and that the negative impacts can be unmitigated and substantial. One way Indigenous people can minimise the negative impacts and maximise the benefits of mineral development is through equitable participation in the negotiations for development of the mineral deposit. The negotiation period thus represents a critical period for Indigenous peoples. States play a critical role in determining the negotiating environments in which mineral development takes place via their control of the institutional and legislative frameworks that govern mineral development. States thus play a significant role in determining outcomes for Indigenous people from mineral development processes. Despite this, there is a conspicuous absence of any recent indepth interrogations of the role of the state in mineral negotiations involving Indigenous people in Australia, a gap this study seeks to address. The legislative and institutional frameworks governing the relationship between mineral development and Indigenous people were significantly altered during the 1990s in Australia when the High Court handed down the historic Mabo decision, which recognised that Indigenous people had rights to land that preceded the acquisition of sovereignty by the British in 1788. This study presents a case study of mineral negotiations that occurred during that transformative period in Australian history: the Century Zinc negotiations. The study scrutinises the behaviour of the state during these negotiations, employing qualitative research methods such as indepth, semi structured interviews and documentary sources, and establishes a rich empirical base from which it tests three theories that contain potential, yet disparate, explanations of the state’s behaviour. Acknowledging the need for a composite theoretical approach because of the different levels of analysis within this study, policy network theory is employed as a lens to focus the analysis at the meso level of this particular policymaking process. This analysis is then used as a platform from which the most appropriate macro theoretical explanation of the state’s behaviour is determined. This study is thus explicitly theory testing. The findings from this study confirm the critical links between the levels of analysis in policymaking processes and the dialectical interaction between structure and agency at all levels of policy making. The study therefore makes a considered contribution to the literature on the political economy of mineral development in Australia. It also augments the information available to Indigenous people about the mineral negotiation process, information that can hopefully be used to improve the outcomes from future negotiations processes in which they may be involved.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of Politics and Public Policy
Century Zinc Mine