Indigenous owned mine and training centre opens in the NT

Aerial view of the Gulkula Regional Training Centre accommodation facility. Image: Rio Tinto

An Indigenous owned mine training centre and bauxite mining operation has opened in the Northern Territory, set to deliver economic benefits for the local Yolgnu people.

The Gulkula Regional Training Centre and Gulkula bauxite mining operation were developed by Gumatj Corporation in Northeast Arnhem Land with support from Rio Tinto, and are 100 per cent owned by the Gumatj clan.

The mine and training centre opened at the Garma Festival on Saturday, where Rio Tinto committed to purchasing the bauxite produced at the mine at a signing ceremony attended by Gumatj clan leader Dr. Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM.

The centre is located on the Dhupuma Plateau, adjacent to the Gulkula mine, and will bring on-the-job training for participants. It was established with $2.4 million funding from Rio Tinto, as well as funding contributions from Gumatj Corporation and the Northern Territory and Australian Governments.

The small-scale bauxite mine aims to bring sustainable economic benefits to the local Yolgnu people and is set to produce around 500,000 tonnes per year during the first four years of operation. It is expected to have a 15-year mine life.

Northern Territory resources minister Ken Vowles said it is the first Aboriginal owned mining operation and training centre on land scheduled under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

“This is a proud moment and a great achievement for the Gumatj people who are the Traditional Owners of the land that the mineral lease has been granted over,” Vowles said.

“This project will open up opportunities for the Aboriginal people of the region.”

Gumatj Corporation CEO Klaus Helms said the mine and training centre were significant for the Yolgnu people and Indigenous communities.

“With Rio Tinto’s support, Yolngu people can now receive on-the-job training through Gumatj mining operations. The skills they develop will open up opportunities for them to build careers in the mining industry in the Northern Territory and beyond,” he said.

“The bauxite sales agreement we signed with Rio Tinto also signifies their commitment to ensuring the success of our new mine. We are very excited to begin production later this year and start generating economic benefits for our local region.”

Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations managing director Bruce Cox also welcomed the new developments.

“As a result of this training centre, even more local Indigenous people will be able to build long-term careers in the mining industry. We hope to see increased Indigenous participation at our own Gove bauxite mine as participants move on from the centre and into the workforce,” he said.