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Aborigine claim halts RTZ

An Australian High Court ruling that will allow fresh legal action by a group of Aborigines seeking land rights, could scupper a $850m zinc mine planned by mining giant RTZ-CRA, writes Nigel Cope.

Reporting lower than expected profits yesterday, RTZ's chief operating officer Leon Davis said the future of the Century project in Australia may have to be reassessed. This follows last month's ruling by the Australian High Court that the Waanyi people in northern Queensland should be allowed to appeal against a federal court ruling which had rejected their claim to native title.

He said: "We will exercise our right to negotiate, but if we have to go back to square one it will result in delays and the whole Century project may have to be scaled down and re-examined."

RTZ-CRA has been in talks with the local community for more than a year and has offered the Waanyi aborigines $60m in compensation for loss of land rights over the 20-year life of the mine. Mr Davis said this was an attractive offer and "the highest ever made by a mining company in Australia".

Profits at RTZ-CRA rose 37 per cent to pounds 1.5bn before exceptional items. The figures were boosted by higher copper and aluminium prices. Iron and coal prices also improved.