Sustainability Through Partnership
Working with Traditional Owners in Far North Queensland
As one of the world’s largest mining companies, we produce materials that end up in everything from cars to bridges, skyscrapers to smart phones. We also produce materials used in the technology of the low-carbon future, such as wind turbines and electric vehicles. And we remain the only major mining company to have a portfolio free of fossil fuel production.
Since 2008, we have reduced our emissions intensity by 29%, and our absolute emissions by 46%. Today, 76% of the electricity we use comes from clean, renewable energy sources.
However, we are working to be part of the solution in other ways as well. For example, we take a long-term approach to management of the environment across our operations – forming partnerships with the people who live and work around our sites, and working in a culturally conscious and environmentally sustainable way.
You can see this in action at our bauxite operations in Far North Queensland, Australia. Bauxite, the ore from which aluminium is derived, has been mined in this part of the world for about 60 years; today, these mines, known as Weipa operations, supply refineries in Australia and abroad.
Weipa operations are located in one of the most remote, beautiful parts of Australia – on the Cape York Peninsula. Our newest mine, named Amrun, is on land owned by the Wik-Waya people – Indigenous Australians who can trace their history in this part of the world back over 60,000 years.
We were the first mining company to embrace Indigenous land rights in Australia and, as such, the first to commit to forming land use agreements with Traditional Owners – Aboriginal people who have traditional authority over the land – in recognition of those rights.
Today, these agreements continue to pave the way for partnerships with Traditional Owners, through which they exercise their rights over the way their land is used and returned, ensuring that our operations are run with respect for their Connection to Country – a physical, spiritual and emotional relationship with land, involving responsibility, custodianship and overall care.
We also continually work with ecologists, Traditional Owners and others, to study and care for the region’s plants and animals – including threatened birds such as the Palm Cockatoo and the Red Goshawk – to understand how to adapt our operations to minimise disrupting them. Sometimes there are pleasant surprises: in 2013, we rediscovered a small population of Northern Quoll – an endangered marsupial native to Australia – at the time thought to no longer live in the Weipa area. We tracked the Northern Quoll using industry leading technology; the resulting data allowed our Weipa team to protect the species’ habitat, both at the mine and beyond.
At Weipa, caring for the land also involves ensuring that – as much as possible – it is returned to its original condition before mining began. Every year, we plan to rehabilitate 90% of areas where we have completed mining.
Mining, by its very nature, has an impact on the environment and at times, on the people who live near operations. But as our work shows, we can minimise that impact, and operate in a way that respects Country – by including the people who have, for many millennia, called it home.
Content produced in partnership with Bloomberg as part of the 50 Climate Leaders 2020 project.