23/10/2007 - 22:00

Not for profit: Miners play community role

23/10/2007 - 22:00

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The Western Australian Community Foundation has doubled its funds under management in the past few months, due to contributions from the state’s mining industry, bringing its total funding pool to $3 million.

Not for profit: Miners play community role

The Western Australian Community Foundation has doubled its funds under management in the past few months, due to contributions from the state’s mining industry, bringing its total funding pool to $3 million.

 

The organisation recently received $1.4 million from mining companies Alcoa of Australia Ltd and Minara Resources Ltd, and is in discussions with other companies in the sector.

 

In August, Alcoa and WACF established the $400,000 Wagerup Sustainability Fund, to support projects in the shires of Harvey and Waroona near the alumina producer’s Wagerup refinery.

 

Alcoa will contribute additional funds each year of about $400,000, which will be tied to production output, as well as a further $1 million upon board approval of the Wagerup Three Expansion project, which has attracted strong opposition from community groups.

 

Last month, nickel miner Minara established its own $1 million fund, the Minara Community Foundation, with an additional commitment of $250,000 each financial year for the next five years.

 

Minara community liaison officer Sam Rigg said the company typically donated about $150,000 each year to community projects, either directly or in-kind, but said this was unprecedented in terms of the scale of the donation.

 

Mr Rigg said the project had been chosen because it allowed the communities surrounding Minara’s operations to achieve a degree of control over investment in the region.

 

“If the fund is independent of us, the community can have more of a buy-in,” he said.

 

The Minara foundation will have an advisory committee of seven members, three of which will be local community members.

 

WACF’s $3 million target has been achieved three years after the organisation was established, and is up from $1 million in March this year.

 

WACF chief executive officer Tonia Swetman said the two recent agreements were a major achievement for the organisation.

 

“We’ve entered a new market, which is the resources companies, and it’s a way for those corporates to discharge their responsibilities in those communities in perpetuity,” she said.

 

“I think a lot of companies will find it attractive.”

 

Ms Swetman said the WACF had also recently received inquiries from land development and environmental companies, and would be likely to diversify its base of partners in the near future.

 

Established in 2004, the WACF provides funds management and acts as a trustee for giving programs around the state.

 

Currently, the foundation manages around 20 community donation accounts, with the majority from communities in regional areas, including Albany, Balingup, Brookton, Denmark, Boyup Brook, Jurien Bay and Hyden. 

 

Regional community foundations have also been established in the Gascoyne, Goldfields, Kimberley, Peel and South West regions.

 

The WA Community Foundation is based on similar organisations in the US, where the industry is worth billions of dollars.

 

Ms Swetman said it was more challenging to operate in Australia, due to tax system bureaucracy and compliance issues.

 

Alcoa national community partnerships manager Anne Russell-Brown said the company had decided to build its own fund, in addition to being a cornerstone partner, because it offered a sustainable vehicle for community investment.

 

“The companies will not be in the communities forever but the communities will go on,” she said.

 

Alcoa is in the process of establishing an advisory committee for its fund.

 

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