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Traditional Owners in one of the most remote corners of Australia are surging ahead with building a strong economic future.

The Gumatj Corporation has created a swag of business opportunities over the past decade to ensure that Yolngu people can control their own destinies when the Rio Tinto-owned bauxite mine near Nhulunbuy closes in 2030.

Indigenous-owned businesses include a regional training centre, a batch plant, sawmill and workshop, cattle operation, grounds maintenance, mechanical workshop, waste management, construction company, survey company, community store, cafe, nursery and real estate property investment.

The latest wealth-creating initiative is agreeing a 24-year lease over a stretch of Gumatj land to allow the Arnhem Space Centre to expand.

Equatorial Launch Australia needs more space after signing deals with Korean aerospace company INNOSPACE for a series of orbital launches.

The agreement will see the launch of several rockets each carrying 50-500 kilogram payloads into low-earth orbit.

ELC chairman Michael Jones says: “This contract demonstrates the potential for the Space Centre to deliver on our goal of being the pre-eminent commercial launch site globally.”

NASA used the Space Centre to launch three suborbital rockets in 2022.

Gumatj Corporation chief executive Klaus Helms says a part of the Indigenous-owned Gulkula bauxite mine will be closed to allow for the expansion.

“We’ve agreed a long-term lease on the land because investors need confidence

“Traditional Owners are very happy with the agreement – it’s a good source of income.”

Royalties paid to the Gumatj will cease when Rio Tinto closes the mine, which has operated for more than 50 years.

The refinery has already been dismantled.

Final rehabilitation work, such as removing equipment, including massive crushers, will take a few years after the mine shutdown.

The Gumatj Corporation, which was founded by Traditional Owners in 2007, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Allied Green Ammonia to build a green hydrogen manufacturing hub on the Gove Peninsula.

“I’m very optimistic but I’m also cautious,” says Mr Helms.

The plan is to produce 165,000 tonnes of hydrogen annually, which would then be used to manufacture 912,500 tonnes of green ammonia.

Allied Green Ammonia was attracted to Gove because it already has excellent infrastructure, such as an airport, a deep-water port, a good general cargo wharf, warehousing, township, roads and brownfield sites for development.

“Gove is an ideal location for production of all sorts of things,” says Mr Helms.

The peninsula could even become a staging post for the military.

“We’re open to all sorts of ideas – we’re open for business.

“But we have a limited amount of time to secure the future for Yolngu people. There will come a time when Rio’s lease will run out and they will be obliged to pull down all their infrastructure.

“We don’t want to be left with the cost of maintaining infrastructure that is not being used to generate revenue. We want to use the existing infrastructure to attract investors. “Our aim is to create wealth, training and jobs for Yolngu people.” Other wealth-creation ideas include mining the bauxite left behind by Rio Tinto. “We don’t know how much that will be, but it could be substantial.”

Traditional Owners are also keen on a commercial plantation of Darwin Stringybark trees. Trees are already wild harvested and used for trusses and verandahs in local houses.

“A plantation wouldn’t be hugely profitable but it would create jobs.”

The Gumatj Corporation is also investigating labour-intensive industries, such as stevedoring, vessel maintenance, ship supply and fuel distribution, and the development of solar power.

The six key industries identified by the corporation are port logistics, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, aerospace, and tourism and arts.

Mr Helms is stressing to potential investors that Gove has a stable workforce.

“Of course, Yolngu people need training, but they will always be there – they’re not going anywhere.

“They live here, are staying here and spend their money here.”

Mr Helms says there is a sense of optimism in North-East Arnhem Land.

“The one thing that truly unites our community is a determination to survive.”