Australia: NT CM resigns over $2,000 mining scam

The Northern Territory’s CM, Natasha Fyles, has resigned after it was revealed that she did not disclose her ownership of shares in a manganese mine. Fyles made the announcement in a press conference on Tuesday, acknowledging her failure to declare a small number of shares in South32, the company overseeing a controversial mine in Groote Eylandt. This revelation comes after an earlier scandal involving undisclosed shareholdings in the gas company Woodside, which Fyles divested last month amid scrutiny.

Earlier this year, Fyles faced criticism for not investigating air pollution levels and health concerns raised by community members regarding potential manganese dust leaks. Additionally, she was under pressure for employing a political consultant who co-owned a lobbying firm with gas company Tamboran as one of its clients.

In her statement, Fyles admitted to the oversight in declaring her shareholdings, specifically a small shareholding in South 32 obtained from a BHP demerger in 2015. She emphasized that it was an unintentional error but deemed it unacceptable. Fyles asserted that none of her decisions had been influenced by this small shareholding. She stated that the “honorable course of action is to resign as Chief Minister” and expressed her commitment to the territory and its progress.

Fyles plans to take a break and return in the New Year to campaign for re-election in her seat of Nightcliff and the re-election of the territory Labor government. Opposition leader Lea Finocchiaro characterized Fyles’ actions as a “profound betrayal of public trust.” Fyles had been facing mounting pressure over the past few months regarding her shareholdings.

Last month, Fyles divested Woodside shares, valued at about $5,000, after concerns were raised about potential conflicts of interest related to the government’s significant expansion of the NT gas industry. Fyles explained that the Woodside shares were originally a gift from her grandmother in 1985 and were properly declared when issued last year due to a merger between the two companies.

The chief minister had also been referred to the NT’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption over potential conflicts of interest. She had been out of Darwin attending her father-in-law’s funeral since the weekend.

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