The Nationals WA have sown the seeds for a new policy to utilise the near-dormant Mining Rehabilitation Fund (MRF) to create ongoing, on-country Aboriginal ranger jobs.
Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson Terry Redman launched a policy discussion paper at today’s 5th annual On-Country Bush Meeting event at Yule River in the Pilbara.
Mr Redman said The Nationals were seeking feedback from Aboriginal corporations and traditional owners with regard to a fee-for-service model for indigenous rangers to be engaged to rehabilitate abandoned mine sites across WA.
“Instead of the current piecemeal approach to State funding of Aboriginal ranger programs, utilisation of the MRF would provide a consistent pool of money to fund a reliable pipeline of work for Aboriginal rangers,” Mr Redman said.
“In Western Australia there is an estimated 11,000 abandoned mine sites and almost 200,000 abandoned mine features (open pits, underground shafts, shallow workings or waste dumps) dotted across the landscape.
“Sites such as these need to be rehabilitated and the MRF provides a reliable funding source to allow Aboriginal rangers to work on country with the flexibility to engage in cultural practices.”
Created in 2013, the MRF is a pooled fund contributed to by Western Australian mining operators. Funds can be used to undertake rehabilitation activities where a tenement operator fails to meet rehabilitation obligations.
“By 30 June 2019, it is estimated the MRF will have about $150 million sitting in it,” Mr Redman said.
“About $30 million is paid into the fund each year by mining companies yet, with only $2 million allocated to be spent in the current financial year, the MRF primarily sits dormant with little strategic planning evident as to how the money could be spent to generate better economic, social and environmental outcomes.
“Ranger programs can be a great gateway into the permanent workforce. Aboriginal West Australians can use these programs to build a skill base in a culturally appropriate setting with the goal of full-time work outside the program, should they wish to pursue it.”
Mr Redman said reporting from mining companies which had utilised Aboriginal rangers for fee-for-service environmental compliance work had shown encouraging results.
“Since 2012, Northern Star Resources has been in partnership with the local Martu Traditional Owners, the Central Desert Native Title Service and neighbouring pastoralists to more effectively manage the biodiversity values at the company’s Jundee Gold Mine, located 50kms west of Wiluna, and neighbouring pastoral stations,” Mr Redman said.
“Analysis undertaken by Northern Star Resources found that for every $1 invested in the program, approximately $2.30 worth of social, economic, cultural and environmental value was created for stakeholders.”
“Most importantly, the policy ensures Aboriginal people continue to work on and manage their country, something they have been doing effectively for tens of thousands of years.”
The discussion paper can be accessed online HERE