'Presents uncertainty': What's worrying the Pilbara Minerals CEO this week?

Western Australian law changes are unsettling the mining sector.

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Pilbara Minerals Ltd (ASX: PLS) CEO Dale Henderson wants greater clarity on laws regarding Aboriginal cultural heritage in Western Australia.

Henderson was commenting after the ABC reported that the WA government would repeal a new law it introduced to avoid another Juukan Gorge situation. This refers to the destruction by Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX: RIO) of 46,000-year-old caves that were culturally significant to Aboriginals.

WA Premier Roger Cook acknowledged that the new laws, which had only been in place for five weeks, went too far, were too complicated and placed unnecessary burdens on property owners, according to the ABC.

Cook said that the legislation had "unintentionally caused stress, confusion and division in the community".

The law will revert to the original 1972 settings, with some amendments.

What does Pilbara Minerals have to do with this?

The ASX lithium share is one of the mining companies that operate in WA, with its Pilgangoora project operations located 120km from Port Hedland.

The laws are relevant to miners in the region, including companies and mineral explorers looking to start new projects.

The ABC reports that Henderson told the Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie recently that it was "vital the government gets it right". He added:

All companies are looking for clarity in that regard. There's change underway which presents uncertainty.

I think like most groups, we're looking for certainty around what the changes are and we watch with great interest to see what transpires.

What's going on with WA laws?

Under the revised laws, "every day" property owners will not be required to undertake surveys of their own land "under any circumstances". Under the scrapped law, landowners would have to pay for cultural surveys before they could do work on the land.

The ABC reported that instead of those requirements, the government will undertake cultural heritage surveys of land in high-priority sections of the state.

Existing native title groups will be supported so that they have more capacity to work with the government and businesses.

In response to this move, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) land and heritage manager Dr Jordan Ralph told the ABC:

We're going back to pre-Native Title legislation that was never fit-for-purpose, that benefited industry over Aboriginal heritage and Aboriginal people. So, it is really a backward step.

This is nothing short of a cluster and again, First Nations people are being treated as second class citizens in their own country.

Share price review

Despite the uncertainty, the Pilbara Minerals share price is up around 10% since the start of August 2023.

Analysts at Macquarie recently lifted the price target on Pilbara Minerals shares to $7.50, while maintaining a buy rating, as reported by my colleague James Mickleboro.

Motley Fool contributor Tristan Harrison has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Macquarie Group. The Motley Fool Australia has positions in and has recommended Macquarie Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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