Indigenous Participation Plans: Mining and Indigenous Peoples in Australia
29 November 2023
Mining is Australia’s biggest export industry and has a significant impact on First Nations people. Most of the land that is utilised for mining is subject to native title and land rights requirements, and the Minerals Council of Australia estimates that more than 60 per cent of operating mines are located near Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. So, how do mining and indigenous peoples in Australia coexist? Generally, very well, with mutually beneficial outcomes for most communities and companies. Resources companies are aware they are significant stakeholders in the development aspirations of First Nations landholders and communities. They recognise the complex history between mining and Indigenous communities, and the significant damage that occurred to land and culture in the past. However, it is recognised that the mining industry in Australia has transformed its approach to one of engagement, negotiation, and agreement-making . Indigenous Participation Plans are in place at many resources companies, setting our goals and targets for the employment and training of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and procurement from Indigenous-owned businesses. Bravus Mining and Resources, for example, aims to create multigenerational benefits for Traditional Owner groups through sustainable employment, skills and training, and other economic and cultural opportunities, while ensuring their rights, history, future intentions, and requests. How many Indigenous people work in mining? Mining employs First Nations Australians at a higher rate than most other industries, according to the peak body for the resources industry, the Minerals Council of Australia, and Indigenous supplier directory Supply Nation. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders choosing to work in mining is about double that of others. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders represent 9.7 per cent of all mining apprentices and trainees – higher than the all-industries average of 7.3 per cent. And in Western Australia, 22 per cent of trainees and apprentices in the resources industry identify as Indigenous. The Minerals Councils’ ESG Change for the Better report said mining provided opportunities for people to continue to live and work on Country, an important element of pathways to work for people in remote communities. “Mining is the largest employer of Indigenous men in remote areas,” they said. “Increasing the number of Indigenous Australians in leadership and professional roles is another priority.” Indigenous Participation Plans The mining industry has the potential to play a significant role in developing Aboriginal employment in Australia. Through employment opportunities, training, and skills development, mining companies are contributing to the economic empowerment of Aboriginal communities, supporting efforts to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Many mining companies have developed Indigenous Participation Plans. These plans outline the strategies and targets to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander jobs and opportunities. They set clear targets for Indigenous employment, and actively prioritise groups during recruitment. Skills development and training targets are also included. Bravus Mining and Resources’ Indigenous Participation Plans for the Carmichael mine sets out objectives on education, training, employment and business participation, both in the immediate and longer-term. The mining operation has a minimum 10 per cent Indigenous trainee target, a minimum 7.5 per cent Indigenous employment target, and a minimum commitment of $7.5m in Indigenous educational bursaries and pre-employment programs. Growing Indigenous businesses through mining Mining developments can present significant opportunities for Aboriginal businesses to grow and thrive. Due to the significant scale of the developments and infrastructure from mining companies, First Nations businesses and entrepreneurs can establish and expand their enterprises. Australia’s largest directory of Indigenous businesses, Supply Nation, credits mining companies with almost half (48 per cent) of spend with registered businesses. “Procurement by Supply Nation members has been dominated by the construction and mining sectors and focussed narrowly,” their Driving Growth in Indigenous Business report said. This has had a strong impact on communities. “Supply Nation’s success over the last 10 years shows that enabling much greater Indigenous procurement is achievable and drives rapid growth for Indigenous businesses,” the report said. “Overall we estimate Supply Nation has already supported $3.4 billion in revenue from procurement spend over the last four years for Indigenous businesses.” There is a minimum $250m Indigenous business development and contracting commitment at Bravus Mining and Resources’ Carmichael mine. Mining jobs to work on Country Indigenous-owned businesses also deliver significant impacts for Aboriginal economic development and employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at a rate of almost 20 times that of all businesses. Wangan and Jagalingou-owned business Woongal Environmental Services provides environmental monitoring and reporting services at Bravus Mining and Resources’ Carmichael mine. Woongal’s team of First Nation rangers combine traditional cultural practices with modern ways of working to help manage the habitat of the endangered Black-throated Finch around the non-mine areas and the 33,000-hectare conservation area. The successful partnership has been recognised with a Silver Medal at the Queensland Resources Council Indigenous Awards and was a finalist in the Excellence in Environmental Management and Sustainability and the Indigenous and Community Engagement categories at the 2023 Australian Mining Prospect Awards. Woongal also helps support the world-leading scientific research Bravus Mining and Resources is undertaking to manage and protect the Doongmabulla Springs Complex area and other groundwater dependent ecosystems. Find out more about Bravus Mining & Resources’ Indigenous Participation Plan and our work with Traditional Owners and First Nations peoples.  Langton, M., 2015, “From Conflict to Cooperation”, Minerals Council of Australia, p7  Supply Nation, Driving Growth in Indigenous Business, 2020, https://supplynation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Supply-Nation-Driving-Growth-in-Indigenous-Business-DEC-2020.pdf, p.34  Minerals Council of Australia, 2021, ESG: Change for the Better report, p 28.  Supply Nation, Driving Growth in Indigenous Business, 2020, https://supplynation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Supply-Nation-Driving-Growth-in-Indigenous-Business-DEC-2020.pdf, p 34....