New guidelines adopted by the Minerals Council of Australia will require Australian mining companies to follow stricter rules governing the impacts of their projects on First Nations communities, as well as their environmental impact.
What is Happening?
- This makes Australia the eighth country in the world to adopt the Towards Sustainable Mining initiative, which was started by Canada, and requires mining companies to consistently evaluate their relationships with indigenous communities, labour practices and environmental impacts, including energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and water quality. Other signatories include national mining associations in Finland, Argentina, Botswana, Spain, the Philippines, Brazil and Norway.
Tania Constable, the chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), told The Sydney Morning Herald, “Trust has been discussed a lot across corporate Australia over the past few years. This is how the industry can further demonstrate trust in the mining industry at a community level.”
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- The council’s decision to adopt these requirements comes after years of growing tensions between the Australian mining sector and First Nations communities, the public and international investors.
- Last year, mining giant Rio Tinto blew up 46 000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters, following which a collective of global investors told Australia’s natural resource companies to improve Indigenous and environmental relations or risk a loss of capital. In December 2020, an Australian parliamentary inquiry ordered Rio Tinto to rebuild the cave system, blasting its “inexcusable” act and saying that it should compensate the traditional owners.
- While indigenous leaders supported the new guidelines, Bobby Nunggumajbarr, chairman of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, told The Herald that ultimately, they want legislative reform for the mining industry, saying, “Our places, our sites, our history deserve better, and we demand strong reforms. When strong reforms are enacted and our places are protected, all Australians will benefit.”
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