MINING construction projects have continued to be fruitful territory for indigenous contractors in Western Australia, with the latest initiative teaming an experienced contracting group with a new entrant to the sector.
For its latest venture, it has partnered with Roebourne-based Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (WMYAC) to win a $200 million contract in the Pilbara.
The joint venture will undertake mining services work in partnership with Leighton Contractors over five years at Fortescue Metals Group’s Solomon mine.
It will also begin a six-month earthworks package at FMG’s Kings deposit in partnership with a major mining contractor, starting mid-year after the contractor is selected.
Eastern Guruma’s decision to partner with WMYAC marks a change of tack.
Notably, WMYAC is separate again from another Roebourne-based group, the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC), which has been campaigning against FMG’s expansion plans.
The ability of contractors such as NRW and Brierty to establish indigenous joint ventures has bolstered their capacity to win work with the big miners.
Eight per cent of NRW’s workforce is indigenous, though the size of its workforce has shrunk in the past few months as mining construction work has slowed.
Its workforce fell to 3,100 at the end of January from 4,534 in September, with most of the reduction accounted for by labour hire firms and sub-contractors.
Looking ahead, NRW says it expect to significantly ramp up its workforce above previous levels by 2014.
Brierty, by contrast, has continued to expand, with 508 employees at the end of December.
The company said 80 indigenous workers were employed on its projects, and it anticipated more engagement with indigenous contractors.
As well as its NYFL joint venture, it has agreements in place to commence projects with Wintawari Gumura Aboriginal Corporation and Karlayura Construction Services.
FMG chief executive Nev Power said in a statement that it was great to see two 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,” he said.
“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.”
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.
“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,” she said.
It is anticipated that the joint venture will draw on FMG’s Vocational Training and Employment Centre (VTEC) in Roebourne.