Waikato iwi Ngati Te Ata, the Crown and a steel company have been told by the High Court to resolve a dispute over mining wahi tapu [sacred grounds] where remains are buried.
New Zealand Steel has held a 100-year permit since 1966 to take ironsands at Maioro mine near Port Waikato but has never mined the blocks of land in dispute.
The dispute, which has been ongoing since 1990, is over four specific areas regarded as wahi tapu, where Ngati Te Ata says it buried its ancestors.
Court papers say excavation is likely to expose koiwi [skeletal remains].
A Ngati Te Ata spokesperson said it would hold an urgent hui a iwi [tribal meeting] to discuss how to proceed.
Meanwhile, a New Zealand Steel spokesperson said the Crown should compensate it if it could not mine these areas, as it equated to about 20 percent of its mining permit.
New Zealand Steel also believed that, if the land was mined and royalties paid to iwi, the Crown should also pay that.
The company wanted to begin mining part of that area by 1 August and the High Court said the three parties needed to negotiate a solution before then.