Rio Tinto starts construction on indigenous mining training centre

Work has begun on Rio Tinto’s mining training centre being developed for the Yolngu people.

The miner announced the establishment of the $2.4 million centre last year, calling it “an important step towards the creation of a bauxite mining operation to be run by the Gumatj clan at Dhupuma Plateau”. 

The centre, which will have the capacity to train up to 24 people at a time, is located near the small-scale bauxite mining operation.

A sod-turning ceremony was held over the weekend as part of the 17th annual Garma gathering.

Deputy chair of the Gumatj Corporation, Djawa Yunupingu said this facility will aid in creating long term employment opportunities for the local community.

 “We're developing a sustainable bauxite operation that will deliver on-the-job training, guaranteed work for our graduates, as well as providing ongoing funding for the training program in to the future,” Yunupingu said.

“Our vision is to build a sustainable Indigenous-owned business that will reap long-term economic benefits for Yolngu people.”

The first course intake is slated for March.

Running over four months, the course will teach trainees all facets of mine operations, rotating them through practical lessons in mine rehabilitation, administration, and catering, as well as literacy and numeracy lessons.

Rio Tinto president and chief executive officer Bauxite and Alumina, Phillip Strachan, said “we're proud to support this important initiative, which is being driven by the local Yolngu community”.

“Learning about the business of mining can help to further empower Indigenous people in their dealings with mining companies into the future.

“It has the potential to help stimulate economic development for the local community, beyond the life of our Gove bauxite mine.

“We are committed to seeing our operation work closely with the Mining Training Centre, and hope that in time we will see graduates also joining our workforce to increase the representation of indigenous people.”

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.


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