Vale to give back to Aussie communities

BRAZILIAN mining giant Vale is identifying community needs with help from the University of Queensland since International Longwall News started investigating the company’s lack of contributions to communities near its Australian operations.

Blair Price

“As a relatively young player in the Australian coal market, over the past month Vale embarked on an important assessment of the sustainable development needs of the communities in which we operate, so that we can do more, and develop stronger partnerships to support the sustainable development of these regions,” a Vale Australia spokesman told ILN.

“To ensure that Vale’s community engagement program is appropriately tailored, Vale is working with the University of Queensland to undertake detailed community analysis in each region in which we operate.

“This analysis will not only assess Vale’s impacts on the local communities but the cumulative impacts on these communities by all mining operations.

“The analysis together with direct consultation with local government will identify the specific needs of each community and enable us to develop tailored social investment management plans in three fields: infrastructure, public management, and human and economic development.

“Vale wants to support the infrastructure of the impacted communities, so that they can better support the development of these regions. The diagnosis will enable Vale to understand the impacts that new investments could have on local infrastructure.”

As part of the assessment and planning process, the spokesman said Vale Foundation director Silvio Vaz recently left Brazil to meet with community leaders in Australia.

Isaac Regions Council Mayor Cedric Marshall missed out on the opportunity to meet Vaz in Moranbah last month because the visit was rescheduled at short notice.

But fortunately the council had a Brazilian female staffer who was able to meet Vaz and discuss community investment opportunities in the region.

Marshall told ILN “it worked out pretty good” and the mining company might decide to set up a Vale Foundation Australian headquarters office in Moranbah.

He said there was a positive response to presentations on community investment opportunities but the ball remained in Vale’s court.

Singleton Mayor Sue Moore met up with Vaz last month.

She told ILN the council was able to present its community needs and shortfalls.

“There was a very encouraging meeting and we are anxiously waiting to hear from them again,” Moore said.

Last month both mayors told ILN they were not aware of any Vale contributions to community projects in their council areas.

The Brazilian iron ore giant dived into Australian coal by purchasing a portfolio of mines and projects from private company AMCI for $A835 million in February 2007.

The producing assets included a 61% stake in the Integra Coal joint venture, which owns open cut and underground mines near Singleton in the Hunter Valley, plus full ownership of the Broadlea open cut mine in central Queensland which closed late last year.

Vale also gained 80% of the nearby Carborough Downs project, which started longwall mining in September 2009, plus half of the Isaac Plains joint venture with Aquila Resources in the state, which began open cut mining in late 2006.

At a Bowen Basin coal conference in August, Vale global coal managing director Decio Amaral said the company had invested $US201 million in social projects worldwide along with $580 million in environmental initiatives in 2009 alone.

A BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance spokeswoman told ILN BMA spends more than $20 million a year in Queensland on community program activities.

Xstrata Coal has contributed more than $12 million in 2010 to help more than 50 corporate social involvement partners in Australia “achieve their goals”

Excluding some of its community programs, and national programs such as the Rio Tinto Aboriginal Foundation, Rio Tinto Coal Australia has chipped in more than $8 million in Queensland and NSW through its eight community development funds.