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Multi-billion-dollar renewables project earmarked for Yindjibarndi native title land

A Pilbara Aboriginal corporation that has been fighting for years for compensation from iron ore mining is now trying to build billions of dollars in renewable infrastructure to sell to the same companies.

Important points:

  • The Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation intends to construct 3GW of renewable infrastructure.
  • The generated energy might power big industrial operations in the Pilbara.
  • The Yindjibarndi people will decide where the infrastructure can and cannot go under the agreement.

Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation [YAC] has founded the Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation with Philippines-listed renewable developer ACEN in order to build one of the country’s largest renewable projects, with a capacity of 3 gigatonnes.

The first stage would involve the construction of more than $1 billion in infrastructure to generate 750 megawatts of solar, wind, and battery storage over the following few years.

As part of the agreement, the Yindjibarndi people would receive equity participation ranging from 25% to 50% in all projects, as well as approval rights for site selection.

Businesses owned by Yindjibarndi would be awarded prefered contractor status.

ACEN has more than eight gigatonnes of projects in the pipeline in Australia, and the 400-megawatt first stage of its New England solar farm project was just completed.

The renewable infrastructure would be located in close proximity to current Pilbara assets. (Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation supplied)

YAC CEO Michael Woodley stated that the agreement provides employment, training, and continued revenue prospects.

“For the first time, we have a recognition that would put us in the box seat of leading some of these projects,” he explained.

“We actually initiated this entire structure… we said we wanted to be a part of renewables, so we went and set up a company called Yiyangu that is 100% owned by the Yindjibarndi people.”

“Having heavy First Nations people establish something like this is good for the community, it’s good for the town, it’s good for small businesses, it’s good for everyone.”

Yindjibarndi native title encompasses around 13,000 square kilometres of land in the west Pilbara. (Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation supplied)

Several locations for renewable energy are being examined inside the 13,000 square kilometres of Yindjibarndi native title determination zones.

The property is centred on the Millstream area between Roebourne and Tom Price, which is home to many of the region’s iron ore mines.

Existing Rio Tinto transmission lines are also located on the western edge of the Yindjibarndi claim area.

ACEN’s solar farm in New England. (Source: ACEN)

Major mining companies are looking to transfer power.

In the Pilbara, the major iron ore miners have already created renewable energy targets.

Rio Tinto intends to build 1 gigatonne of renewable infrastructure, BHP intends to install 550 megawatts of wind, solar, and battery storage, and Fortescue intends to build its own 5.4 gigatonne project.

ACEN International CEO Patrice Clausse stated in a statement that the company is in discussions with significant industry participants.

“Commercial discussions are in motion, and we’re currently having encouraging conversations with potential offtake customers to purchase the renewable energy,” he said.

Mr. Woodley stated that there seems to be interest from major stakeholders in the region.

“I see us [Yindjibarndi] as having a role to play… in the global challenge of reducing carbon,” he remarked.

YAC has been involved in a long-running compensation dispute with Fortescue over unlicensed mining on its territory.

The matter is being heard in Federal Court, with hearings set to begin next month, although the two sides have been in talks to potentially resolve the issue.

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