Community goals shaped by real needs

New Century Resources has turned the Century zinc operation in Queensland into an award-winning mine since acquiring it in 2016 while also benefitting local communities.

When it comes to fulfilling social responsibilities, New Century Resources doesn’t set its own agenda at the Century zinc operation in Queensland.

Instead, the company goes out and seeks the real needs and vision of the local communities in which it operates.

New Century’s approach won it the Bulk 2020 Community Interaction award at the 2019 Australian Mining Prospect Awards – the company’s first of two wins on the night.

New Century drives its social strategy through the Waanyi Downer Joint Venture (JV), a partnership formed between the traditional custodians of the land and mining services company Downer Group in late 2015.

Not only has New Century awarded several contracts to and established a profit-sharing agreement with the Waanyi Downer JV, the relationship goes beyond the commercial achievements and makes a real difference in the local community.

The Mornington Island State School literacy program has also been delivered by the Waanyi Downer JV, and stands out due to its quick, tangible results.

“We visited Mornington Island (State School in Gununa) and they told us about the issues they were having with younger students who weren’t attending school, and the principal told us the feedback: they had not developed basic literacy skills,” New Century head of corporate affairs and social responsibility Shane Goodwin tells Australian Mining.

“This was keeping them away from school because they felt confronted with the fact that they were not keeping up in classroom, which amplifies the low attendance rates.”

Through New Century’s consultation program, the community was able to identify a solution for the problem, but couldn’t deliver it due to a lack of resources.

The company provided solid evidence that having teachers in place and giving students extra care through one-on-one sessions, on top of their normal daily classroom reading, provided the support the students needed.

New Century listened and facilitated the Teacher’s Aide program, which included 35 students in preparatory school up to second grade, and 20 students in grades three to 10.

Within less than a year, the grade five students improved their literacy by 21 per cent, and the grade three students by 15 per cent.

“We provide the resource, but rather than saying to the community this is what we’re going to do for you, our community initiatives are guided by what the community says to be their development needs,” Goodwin explains.

“With this (program), students are encouraged to hold on to the language of their community, as well as developing their English, which will be a positive asset as they continue to mature.”

New Century also identified its Kapani Warrior program in Doomadgee, Queensland in a very similar way.

The Doomadgee community had expressed a wish to have their young people trained and engaged in programs that would grant them work-ready skills, in a hands-on learning environment where they could thrive.

New Century, in partnership with the Waanyi Downer JV delivers these criteria through the program.

The Kapani Warrior Program was born to allow “at risk” youth to participate in pre-army training run by retired army professionals in regional Aboriginal communities.

“Fourteen of the participants in that initial program went on to join the Army Reserve, and one joining the regular army. These are employment positions that didn’t exist before we engaged in that training initiative,” Goodwin says.

The program’s success has prompted New Century to run the camps in other locations, possibly in Normanton and Mornington Island.

Similarly, New Century is investigating the delivery of a Teacher’s Aide program in Doomadgee, thanks to its success in Mornington Island.

Goodwin says the company will help the mine’s former employees gain formal certifications.

“They were trained in operating heavy equipment, but didn’t receive formal certifications in that training as they were only trained in that particular site,” Goodwin says.

“The community was disappointed that a lot of their people have been engaged in training and work at New Century historically, but didn’t walk away with any formal certifications.

“So, we’re going to reverse that and have training institutions there to formally certify these workers in the work they were doing.”

Goodwin says there is a lot New Century can do and it’s all based on community feedback. This prevents New Century from being “hamstrung by its own design.”

Instead, the company has become the community’s agent in going out and finding ways to fulfill their desires, bringing life-long impact to local communities as it goes.

This article also appears in the December edition of Australian Mining.

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