Traditional Owners form historic mining joint venture

Feb 21, 2013

Two Aboriginal contractors in the Pilbara region of Western Australia have formed an historic joint venture to undertake $200 million worth of mining contracts at Fortescue Metals Group’s Solomon mine.

Two Aboriginal contractors, Eastern Guruma and Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (WMYAC), agreed to work together at Solomon, 60 kilometres north of Tom Price, to capitalise on growing opportunities in the mining industry and to build their business capability. Eastern Guruma and WMYAC will work alongside existing contractors at Solomon, including Leighton Contractors.

The joint venture, which is scheduled to commence work in March 2013 and operate over five years, marks one of the first times that two Traditional Owner companies have come together to form a business partnership.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer Nev Power said that it was great to see two Pilbara Aboriginal contractors join forces to build their business capability within the mining industry. “There are a phenomenal number of opportunities in the mining industry for Aboriginal people. I’m extremely proud that these two groups, Traditional Owners of the land where the Solomon mine is located, will work together for the greater economic benefit of their communities.”

Eastern Guruma has been a partner in several successful joint venture operations in the Pilbara. However, this joint venture marks the first business opportunity in the mining industry for WMYAC.

WMYAC Acting Chairperson, Maudie Jerrold, said she was delighted that WMYAC had been instrumental in realising this opportunity for Yindjibarndi people to work with and learn from Eastern Guruma and Leighton.

“There is a big chance here for our Yindjibarndi people to create a positive future for our children and their children. Yindjibarndi people will see immediate and long term benefits including education, training, jobs and more importantly for us, to learn more about operating our own businesses in the mining industry,” Maudie said. “This opportunity cannot be lost and the WMYAC Board is solid in its commitment to ensure it happens.”

Eastern Guruma Director Sue Boyd said the joint venture would provide employment, training and other business opportunities for Aboriginal people, to ensure that the younger generation have been set up for the future, be self-reliant and to carry with pride that we are looking after our people to get jobs and get out of the poverty that is always highlighted in the media.

The joint venture will undertake mining services work in partnership with Leighton Contractors for the five year term of their mining and operations contract. It will also begin a six month earthworks package at the Kings deposit at Solomon starting in mid-2013. The earthworks will be completed in partnership with a major mining contractor which is expected to be awarded in coming months.

It is anticipated that the joint venture will draw on Fortescue’s Vocational Training and Employment Centre (VTEC) in Roebourne to develop and train new members of the workforce and continue to build the skills and the economic viability of the town.

Mr Power said that growing up in Western Queensland he would often see young people leave their Aboriginal communities as they searched for work in regional centres or capital cities. By providing opportunities in the Pilbara, Aboriginal people can remain within their communities.

“Fortescue is partnering with Roebourne and surrounding communities to provide accessible and sustainable employment opportunities to its members,” said Mr Power. “I hope that this opportunity might set a precedent for other Traditional Owner groups and I look forward to a successful long term partnership with Eastern Guruma and Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation.”

130221 Mining Joint Venture