10/03/2017 - 13:12

Indigenous contractor’s time up

10/03/2017 - 13:12

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Ngarda Civil & Mining, a pioneering indigenous contractor that employed more than 300 people at its peak, is being wound up, though curiously the listed company that owns a 50 per cent stake is still claiming Ngarda is a big employer.

Ngarda employees pictured in Business News when the contractor started in 2001.

Ngarda Civil & Mining, a pioneering indigenous contractor that employed more than 300 people at its peak, is being wound up, though curiously the listed company that owns a 50 per cent stake is still claiming Ngarda is a big employer.

Construction giant CIMIC Group is a 50 per cent shareholder in Ngarda through its subsidiary CPB Contractors (formerly Leighton Contractors).

Business News understands that CPB, along with minority shareholders Ngarda Ngarli Yarndu Foundation and Indigenous Business Australia, agreed last year to wind up Ngarda, which has been operating since 2001.

The wind-up follows the completion of major projects at BHP Billiton’s Finucane Island and Nelson Point facilities at Port Hedland, and Rio Rinto’s West Angelas iron ore mine.

It also comes after the departure last year of general manager Shane Maraldo, who helped win the BHP and Rio contracts after joining Ngarda in 2014.

Industry sources have confirmed to Business News that Ngarda is not doing any work for BHP or Rio, and they believe the contractor does not have any other work on its books.

Ngarda has declined requests to confirm its plans, but has taken down its corporate website.

Its three shareholders have also declined to confirm what is happening, though a spokesperson for Canberra-based IBA did advise Ngarda is considering its future position in light of a decline in the Western Australian contracting sector.

Cimic’s 2016 annual report, published last month, claims Ngarda is one of Australia’s largest indigenous contracting companies.

“Ngarda has a workforce of 168, 85 per cent of whom are indigenous people,” the report stated.

“The company currently has six apprentices, 47 trainees and two academy-based trainees. There are 27 indigenous personnel completing certificate III in metalliferous mining operations.”

Cimic declined to comment when Business News pointed out this information was out of date.

Instead, it referred Business News to the indigenous engagement section on CPB Contractors’ website, which makes no reference to Ngarda.

The numbers quoted in the Cimic annual report are exactly the same as those quoted in a Ngarda profile on the www.isx.com.au website.

That profile also states that Ngarda currently has about 140 indigenous personnel employed on the BHP and Rio projects, which Business News has confirmed have been completed.

Ngarda was established in 2001 with backing from mining contractor Henry Walker Eltin. Cimic (formerly Leighton Holdings) subsequently acquired its major operations in 2006.

Ngarda’s biggest win came a year later, when it secured a five-year contract worth more than $300 million to manage and operate BHP’s Yarrie iron ore mine.

The Yarrie contract helped lift Ngarda’s annual revenue to a peak of $116 million in the year to June 2009.

Other clients have included Woodside Petroleum, Aditya Birla Minerals, and Newcrest.

Ngarda’s most recent financial statements, for the year to June 2015, show the group posted a loss of $744,000 on revenue of $45 million.

That followed a loss of $8.9 million in 2013-14 on revenue of $61 million.

It had 92 employees at the end of June 2015, according to its annual return lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Geraldton-based Ngarda Ngarli Yarndu Foundation holds its stake in Ngarda through Mulba Civil & Engineering.

Its directors include Barry Taylor, who was formerly executive chairman of Ngarda.

The winding down of Ngarda’s business may assist other contractors in the Pilbara, including major players Indigenous Construction Resource Group and Eastern Guruma, which rank highly on the BNiQ Search Engine listing of indigenous contractors (see table).

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