Newmont gold mine: Aboriginal jobs, still trying

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.”

 

 

 

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9 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. John
    Posted January 28, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    So its all a joke. The mining companies won’t say how many locals they have employed, and more and to the point, they don’t care. And the people who get the royalties don’t report it to Centrelink. Well, maybe not a joke, it’s a good thing for both sides if your either one of them.

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  2. Ray
    Posted January 22, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    Very interesting comments on the update, Erwin.
    Could we surmise from that statement that because the royalties are paid to the ABA, or the land councils, no income tax is paid?
    It is a well known fact that royalty money is then distributed to various family groups.
    It would be good to see the legalese if the definition of “distributed” is different to that of sharing.
    If everybody is given an amount (even as low as $50) would that satisfy the test of it being used for the whole community?
    It is well known the secrecy and exemptions that apply to the accounts of Aboriginal organisations.
    Unfortunately with the generalist statement provided to you, is is unlikely we will ever get a straight answer.

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  3. Frank Baarda
    Posted January 14, 2020 at 9:39 am

    Don’t judge people for the choices they make when you don’t know the options they had to choose from.
    In the past I have been involved in trying to recruit Warlpiri workers for the Granites mines.
    The mining companies don’t appear to be serious about local recruiting and certainly don’t make it easy. It is unfair to sheet the entire blame for the recruiting failure to the locals.
    The glossy brochure with its fancy words and Newmont’s spin and PR does not hide the fact that they are unable or unwilling to answer simple questions. How many Warlpiri people are currently working at Tanami Operations? I suspect it is none.

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  4. Ray
    Posted January 12, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    I wonder how it would go if the royalties are distributed to each language group dependent on the percentage of employees from each group.
    If anybody says they believe the current royalty system is benefiting anybody in these communities (apart from new cars), I would quote Darrell Kerrighan and “tell ’em they’re dreamin”.

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  5. Leigh Childs
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Just a question Erwin, are the royalties subject to Centrelink scrutiny? Do you know? I have to declare any amount above $2000. Cheers Leigh.
    [ED – Hi Leigh, I’m putting your question to Centrelink and will publish the answer. Happy New Year, Erwin.]

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  6. John
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 10:50 am

    Not sure were you get the idea they want to work!
    And I am sure the mining companies have plans and people to TRY to get them to work, and when they get the money from mining companies do they report it as income to Centrelink? Don’t think so!

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  7. Frank Baarda
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 10:18 am

    The Alice Springs News’s question: “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?” proved too difficult for Newmont to answer.
    I herewith submit a simpler question: How many Warlpiri people are currently working at Newmont’s Tanami Operations?
    Simple question, simple answer. Just a number is all. Not holding my breath.

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  8. Psuedo Guru
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 3:33 pm

    FREE Taxpayers’ money. Why work? Mines should build Alice Springs flood mitigation with royalties.

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  9. Jeff
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    We all know plans are developed, written up and promoted. Question is, who is monitoring the Yapa plan?
    Is there compliance with it and if not, who is responsible for ensuring it is meaningful?
    Plans and agreements are good processes for the Yapa, but please, what about compliance?
    I think there would be many agreements struck without any compliance. Hhhmmm.

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