Indigenous group eyes North Coast

THE NSW Aboriginal Land Council may start mining on the North Coast to make Aboriginal people more independent.

The council has obtained applications to explore for petroleum and gas at Murwillumbah, Grafton and White Cliffs in north-western NSW. The smallest licence sits 6km south-south-east of Murwillumbah and spans 1330sq km.

In a statement, NSW Aboriginal Land Council CEO Geoff Scott said Aboriginal communities could see a real benefit from initiating mining activities .

"For decades, Aboriginal people have gotten little more than scraps from mining activities," Mr Scott said.

"This strategy is about Aboriginal people breaking through into the real economy and driving financial benefits back into the land-rights network.

"It is a paradigm shift. It's about us having a seat at the table rather than waiting for the crumbs.

He said the "needs of Aboriginal people in NSW are great".

"In order to move Aboriginal people to economic independence - one of the core objectives of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council - we must find sources of revenue that can not only sustain our people but also assist our people to improve their economic and social positions. .

"Ending the cycle of generational poverty is very expensive."

The applications were accepted by the NSW state government this month and it is understood the council has a joint venture partner to provide most of the cash and expertise required.

The move could see the land council become Australia's first indigenous commercial miner, but Mr Scott stressed the applications were still at an early stage.

"Effectively we're dipping our toes in the water," Mr Scott said.

Mr Scott said of course the land council has concerns about the environmental impact, but Aboriginal people can see both sides of the argument.

"That's why we intend to approach these issues from an Aboriginal perspective and as an organisation that has an established track record of preserving the environmental and cultural sensitivities of our land." .

Mr Scott said it "has thrived and survived" without government funding since 1998 and mining could increase this economic independence.

"There are no guarantees that NSW Aboriginal Land Council will even be granted a licence to explore for petroleum and gas," Mr Scott said.

"Even if we are, there are no guarantees that our explorations will bear fruit.

"But NSW Aboriginal Land Council is excited about the prospect of finally giving the Aboriginal people of NSW a real shot at self determination through economic independence."

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