Fortescue Metals and members of Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal have established a co-management framework to develop new mines at the company’s Solomon Hub operations in Western Australia.
Wintawari is the prescribed corporate body for the Eastern Guruma People.
The framework will see the establishment of a culturally safe mining joint venture by Fortescue and members of Wintawari to mine the East and West Queens deposits on Eastern Guruma country.
Fortescue said that the ten-year mine services contract, which will be awarded to the new joint venture, is estimated to be worth more than $500m.
This makes the contract the largest ever awarded by the firm to an Aboriginal business.
In order to ensure collaborative work on all stages of the mine development, a working group will be formed.
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Wintawari chair Glen Camille said: “Working collaboratively, we will ensure that Eastern Guruma People are active participants in the future development of mines on our country, enabling deeper consultation around the protection of culturally significant sites while building a better future for our people.”
The agreement builds on the Land Access Agreement signed between the parties in December 2009.
Fortescue indigenous communities senior manager Heath Nelson said: “In line with our approach to ensuring our Native Title Partners benefit from our growth and development, this joint venture will also deliver significant economic opportunities through employment and contracting opportunities.”
Over 93% of Eastern Guruma country constitute mining tenements. It is one of Australia’s most heavily explored and minerally prospective locations.
The latest pact comes as mining firms seek to revise terms with traditional landowners in the wake of Rio Tinto’s 2020 destruction of culturally and historically important rock shelters in Western Australia.
The destruction of the 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site as part of an expansion project in the Pilbara region sparked public outrage.