16/06/2014 - 13:22

Brierty building on strong indigenous foundation

16/06/2014 - 13:22

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FEATURE: Partnerships with indigenous groups have helped mining and civil contractor Brierty achieve some big wins.

Brierty building on strong indigenous foundation
CONTRACT WINS: Brierty managing director Peter McBain (left) with plant operator Azrael Bartlett and Aboriginal engagement manager Christine Sindley.

Partnerships with indigenous groups have helped mining and civil contractor Brierty achieve some big wins.

Brierty won its biggest contract last month, but the seeds of that success were sown three years earlier when newly appointed managing director Peter McBain lifted the group’s focus on indigenous engagement.

With a career history that includes Argyle Diamonds, HWE Mining and NRW Holdings, Mr McBain has had plenty of exposure to indigenous communities and contractors.

He also recognised that the big mining companies in the Pilbara were keen to bolster their indigenous engagement, and were looking for contractors to help in that process.

During the past three years, Brierty has signed multiple agreements with indigenous groups, and delivered several relatively small projects.

That track record would have helped when Brierty was awarded a $300 million contract in May, for mining and civil work at Rio Tinto’s Western Turner Syncline stage 2 project.

It plans to partner with four indigenous groups to deliver the work, but says that won’t be at the expense of competitive pricing or efficiency.

“Absolutely we have to stay competitive,” Mr McBain told Business News.

“Everyone has to meet performance targets regardless of the indigenous content. The targets are on the wall and we expect people to meet their targets.”

Mr McBain believes indigenous partnering only works where there is a genuine intent to ‘close the gap’.

“It comes down to people and the intent of the company,” he said.

“It has to be real, it can’t be manufactured, it can’t be fake.

“The Aboriginal engagement model we apply across the whole business. It’s not just for Rio Tinto and FMG and people in the Pilbara.”

Mr McBain said 12 per cent of Brierty’s staff is indigenous, and at one stage last year the company lifted the figure to 15 per cent.

He said that was apparent across its operations, from its workshop at Maddington to mining projects in the Mid West and civil projects at Perth Airport, Alkimos and elsewhere.

“We focus on it at a whole-of-business level, and because we are geographically diverse, we’ve been able to keep people working in or around where they traditionally have come from, which is another really good story,” Mr McBain said.

Brierty’s first indigenous partnership was signed in 2011 with the Wirlu Murra Yindjararndi Aboriginal Corporation for employment, training and subcontract opportunities on a Fortescue Metals Group rail project.

In December that year, Brierty established a joint venture with the Ngarluma & Yindjibarndi Foundation Ltd (NYFL).

Led by chief executive Evan Maloney, Roebourne-based NYFL is one of the most experienced indigenous contractors in the Pilbara.

“Evan and I met five or six times over a few months to make sure we were on the same page, like-minded in terms of what we wanted out of the joint venture,” Mr McBain said.

He believes Brierty’s track record was a factor in winning NYFL’s support.

“You can walk into any contractor’s office in Perth and they will all tell you they are doing good stuff and they are the people to work with,” Mr McBain said.

“We said that if he wants to get a feel for us, it’s better to go out to Maddington and talk to some of the Aboriginal people who work for us and see what they think.”

The joint venture’s first contract was a $55 million land development project at Wickham for Rio Tinto.

Mr McBain said that went well, with NYFL staff working as labourers, in office work and procurement roles.

In July last year, Brierty signed another joint venture agreement, with Karlayura Construction Services.

Mr McBain said Karlayura was starting from close to scratch, and was keen to build up the capability of its people in the construction sector.

The Karlayura joint venture won a small contract at BHP Billiton’s Jimblebar mine last year, and in April was awarded a $9.9 million road construction contract for Rio Tinto.

The four indigenous groups that will work on the $300 million Rio project comprise NYFL and Karlayura, along with Wintawari Guruma and Eastern Guruma.

Wintawari is another relatively new player while Eastern Guruma, led by chief executive Ron Villafloor, is arguably the most successful indigenous contractor in the Pilbara.

The involvement of NYFL and Eastern Guruma in the Brierty project marks something of a changing of the guard.

The two indigenous groups have won most of their work through joint ventures with ASX-listed contractor NRW Holdings.

NRW had a purple patch during 2011 and 2012, when it won multiple large contracts with its indigenous partners.

Its most recent big JV win occurred in April last year, when it teamed up with Eastern Guruma to win $180 million of work at Rio’s Nammuldi project.

However, the lack of new contracts elsewhere meant NYFL and Eastern Guruma had people and equipment available to work on the Brierty project.


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