“Coal & Allied’s target of five per cent indigenous employment is now embedded in site and business unit plans, and furthermore, it’s been adopted by companies we work with, including Resco and Skilled,” the company’s Aboriginal relations specialist Cate Sims said.
“We also now deliver cultural awareness training to Coal & Allied employees to improve awareness of our commitment and approach to our relationships with our Aboriginal communities, and have also committed to provide this training to labour suppliers.”
Back in 2006 the Rio Tinto subsidiary undertook a socio-economic baseline study of the Upper Hunter Valley which identified how disadvantaged the indigenous communities were.
The coal producer consequently set up a committee, including local indigenous representatives, to select programs which best provide long-term benefits.
Aside from creating training and employment opportunities for indigenous people, Coal & Allied also worked on building sustainable networks into these communities.
“This work is creating an enabling environment for Indigenous people to participate fully in the local community and economy, and one which reflects their vision for their future.”
The company also picked up a highly commended award for its alluvial lands cropping trial which was a required action under the development consent for mining at its mammoth Hunter Valley Operations site.
“This is the first trial of its kind to demonstrate the rehabilitation of alluvial land after mining to match the crop production levels on nearby farms,” Coal & Allied environmental specialist Bill Baxter said.
“We believe the results are significant, not only for Coal & Allied, but for other key mining and agricultural regions with alluvial lands.
“The techniques employed during the rehabilitation work and the cropping trial are directly transferable to other mining operations aiming to return land to cropping.
“A tender has since been awarded to a farmer to commercially crop this land, which is a real-world indicator of the trial’s success.”
The Queensland government plans to introduce legislation to protect quality farmland from mining impacts, but effective rehabilitation techniques might save future coal mining developments in areas deemed to contain strategic cropping land.