Rio Tinto, in conjunction with the Gumatj Corporation, have established a mining training centre for Yolngu people in the Northern Territory.
The $2.4 million centre, based in Northeast Arnhem Land, "is an important step towards the creation of a bauxite mining operation to be run by the Gumatj clan at Dhupuma Plateau," the company stated.
"Our aim is to create a sustainable, Indigenous-owned business that will deliver long term economic benefits for the Yolngu people," Gumatj deputy chairman Djawa Yunupingu explained.
"This training centre will help Yolngu people develop the skills to work in mines across the Northern Territory through on the job training within Gumatj mining operations; it will be available to Aboriginal people throughout the Northern Territory who wish to learn skills in the mining industry," he said.
"With the support of Rio Tinto we are making considerable progress towards this mining operation; the Gulkula MIning Company has now submitted its exploration licence and mining management plan, with an exploration program starting next month to prove up the quantity and quality of the reserves."
Late last year Rio Tinto's Gove operations and the Gumatj Aboriginal Corporation signed an MoU to complete a feasibility study on the bauxite project.
Indigenous community leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu welcomed the news saying it will allow Aboriginal people to commercially develop their land and improve their ability to become self-sufficient.
He explained Indigenous people wish to have the same opportunities as non-indigenous people, to earn income from their properties.
"You're earning money, banking money, and you see your money … it grows, it grows," he said.
"That's the way of living Aboriginal people want, too. My word, we would like to try that."
Gove Operations general manager Ryan Cavanagh explained promoting economic independence amongst the Yolngu people is a key commitment in the 2011 Gove traditional owners agreement.
Providing support to the Gumatj Aboriginal Corporation, Gove Operations will assist in the development of a sustainable bauxite mine, including the execution of an exploration program to firm up resource estimates on Gumatj land.
"This is an important step for the Gumatj, to own and operate a bauxite mine on their country," Cavanagh said.
Industrial scientist and former manager of mining projects at the Northern Land Council, Dr Howard Smith said the connection Indigenous people have with the land makes them ideal mine workers.
"They know where to go, where not to go, which plants need to be here, which animals need to be there, and they can construct the mine according to their needs," Smith said.
Regarding the establishment of the new mining centre, Rio Tinto managing director Australia Phil Edmands said the miner was pleased to strengthen its partnership with the Yolngu people.
"We believe this training centre will be an important catalyst for Yolgnu people across the region to develop the life-skills and training needed to create successful careers in mining," Edmands said.
"We are working to increase the levels of Indigenous participation in the workforce at our Gove bauxite mine, and we hope to see the training centre play a role in achieving this outcome.
"This is a project driven by the Yolngu people to shape their own futures, and we are proud to be able to support them in this endeavour."
Construction on the mining training centre will start next year, near the newly opened Garma Knowledge Centre in Gulkula, and will link in with the Foundational Learning program developed by the Yothu Yindi Foundation.