22 June 2022


In June 2022, ASI held the second in a series of workshops about bauxite exploration and mining in Cairns in North Queensland Australia, with over 40 Indigenous community representatives from across Western and Northern Cape York Peninsula.

The aim of these workshops is to share information which can be used to help prepare Indigenous peoples and clan leaders to participate in discussions with other stakeholders about developments on their traditional lands (Country). Discussions at this workshop addressed the need to better understand bauxite mining and exploration, new ideas that incorporate Indigenous perspectives about mining, and ways for Indigenous people to get support and information to make informed decisions for their Country and families.

The attendees for the workshop included Indigenous people with a broad representation of age and gender. ASI and guest speakers from indigenous organisations, including Nawa Nawa Consultants and Gulkula Mining, also contributed to the discussions.

A clear message has come from the workshops and associated discussions that confirmed that Indigenous people want further information and more ASI workshops to be held on their Country, in multiple communities of Northern Australia.

 

Background

ASI’s Indigenous Peoples Advisory Forum (IPAF) provides a platform for capacity building activities beyond ASI’s Certification program.

These workshops are being developed to share information (adapted to suit local context and jurisdictional differences) with Indigenous peoples so they can participate in Free Prior and Informed Consent processes, and talk with family and communities about key issues in their own way.  The current project focuses on a range of bauxite regions in Australia.

ASI is working closely with Nawa Nawa Consultants, an Indigenous owned and operated consulting business from Arnhem Land.  They bring extensive experience with culturally appropriate consultation with Indigenous people from the Yolŋu nations in East Arnhem.

The key drivers are:

  • Pressure on Indigenous people for their natural resources.
  • Sharing information and knowledge, to support Free Prior and Informed Consent.
  • Indigenous people were there prior to mining and will be there long after miners have left.

 

5 stages of bauxite exploration and mining

Participants noted:

  • Strong interest in gaining further understanding of bauxite mining and exploration, including what is happening on Cape York Peninsula
  • More information and support wanted so they can better participate in exploration and mining developments, including implementation of existing mining agreements and mine closure planning
  • Value of maps/tenement information, and understanding how development decision-making works
  • General desire to hear more about success stories of Indigenous-run and owned businesses such as mining companies/timber harvesting operations.

 

Feedback on value of Indigenous-led processes

  • Following community governance structures enables workshops to be delivered in a culturally appropriate manner in both homelands and communities
  • Providing an interpreter/cross cultural communicator is important to be inclusive for everyone at the workshops
  • Ensuring gender balance and including younger people was really good to see, so they can learn from senior people/elders talking about mining and building knowledge for the future
  • Important to take workshop information back to family as every family group works in different ways
  • Consensus that working together is critical in creating a united position from where positive change can occur.

 

Knowledge is key – asking questions is important

  • Being informed about mining and exploration is crucial to ask the right questions when meeting with mining companies
  • No question is a bad one
  • Successful businesses, including Indigenous owned mines/timber operations, are where they are now because they asked questions and got help
  • Traditional Owners have rights to the land, and it is important to know what these rights are to make negotiations.
  • Often, when ‘engagement’ takes place, governments and mining companies want something from Traditional Owners. Requesting for extra time to answer questions and asking for help, and receiving the right information is key to making informed decisions.

 

Next steps

The participants of this workshop expressed a clear and strong interest for more workshops on bauxite exploration and mining. An invitation was given by all participants in the workshop to ASI for future workshops to be held on their traditional homelands throughout Cape York Peninsula, where the information shared in this workshop can be presented to family groups on Country.  These are being planned for later in 2022.

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