By ERWIN CHLANDA
Employment of local Aboriginal people at Newmont’s Tanami operations north-west of Alice Springs appear to be mostly in positions peripheral to the actual gold mining that requires a highly-paid and readily transferable skill set.
Newmont’s General Manager, Tanami, Vince De Carolis, says the mine has about 950 employees of whom 118 are Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
Only half of them are from the Warlpiri Central Australian Language Group (CALG), “from across the operational area of influence” with Yuendumu, Lajamanu, Willowra and Nyirripi as the main centres, the major beneficiaries of the royalties worth tens of millions of dollars, yet plagued by high unemployment.
Mr De Carolis provided details of the Warlpiri workers’ functions but did not respond to these questions from the Alice Springs News: “How many CALG people are working in the actual mining including drilling, blasting, transporting and processing ore, and what is their average time of employment?”
He says they are in “a range of key operational and support roles across the Newmont and managed contractor workforce. All our employees are in ‘actual mining’.”
Indigenous employment pathways outlined by him include:–
• Nine Indigenous familiarisation and training program trainee positions in 2019 extended to 12 in 2020 prioritising CALG candidates.
• The Yapa Crew, with up to 10 crew members and coordinators, provides entry level general site services, cultural heritage, natural resource and land management, traditional owner support, grounds and facilities management.
• Four apprenticeships were advertised in 2019 and applicants are being interviewed, preferring CALG candidates.
• There is a five year extension of a “strategic community investment agreement” with Charles Darwin University. It now includes two Indigenous higher education transition scholarships aligned to graduate priority professions, two apprenticeship trade aligned VET scholarships and two Community Development VET scholarships focused on CALG candidates, hosted out of the Alice Springs campus.
• Flinders University Centre for Remote Health is contracted deliver cross cultural awareness training for three years inclusive of Warlpiri “presenter involvement, enterprise capability development and service delivery”.
The American Newmont, the world’s biggest gold producer with interests around the globe, started working the former Granites dig north-west of Alice Springs in 1987.
A 10-year program called “achieving better outcomes in the Tanami region” got under way in 2016.
It provides “a range of programs, as part of the Granites-Kurra plan, in collaboration with the Central Land Council and Warlpiri People, to implement priority education, employment and governance actions”.
The initiative clearly indicates the company’s intentions but does not explain the apparent minimal uptake by the Aboriginal population.
Mr De Carolis says: “Newmont continues to work collaboratively to address barriers to employment and increase representation from priority Warlpiri communities in line with legal and voluntary commitments.”
In 2019, Newmont formalised the governance structure, “including extending engagement with and representation of Warlpiri people and development of a monitoring and evaluation framework for the plan”.
But a glossy brochure of the 10-year plan provides little evidence of “coalface” work being done, but much of planning, discussion and meetings, with outcomes clearly hoped for some time in the future.
It is “a guide for working together to achieve stronger outcomes for Yapa,” says the online brochure.
Samples from the content: “Detailed discussions with Yapa [and] stakeholders … independently facilitated workshop … reviewed and endorsed by traditional owners … skills and capacity building and work experience … support Yapa authority and governance across the Tanami region [and] leadership capacity and succession planning … promote and support Yapa self-determination … increase employment outcomes at the mine … support the development of sustainable Yapa businesses and social enterprises … support Yapa authority and governance across the Tanami region [and] leadership capacity and succession planning … promote and support Yapa self-determination … a guide for working together.” And so on.
IMAGES courtesy Newmont.
UPDATE January 15, 2020
Royalties are considered as income when paid to an individual, a spokeswoman for the Australian Government Department of Human Services stated today in response to enquiries from the Alice Springs News about whether recipients have to pay tax.
Two readers posed the question (see below).
“If the community gets the money, it doesn’t count as income if they use the money for the whole community.
“It will count as income if they share it among people who plan to keep it for themselves.
“The Department of Social Services is responsible for setting the policy on income and assets tests for Centrelink payments.”