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First Nations delegates are playing a key role at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) at the ICC Sydney this week. 

With 80% of future resources on Indigenous land or that of land-connected people, it’s pivotal First Nations communities are included in the conversations and collaborations about the future of the sector.

Setting the tone for the focus on this inclusion, Florence Drummond, the CEO of Indigenous Women in Mining and Resources Australia (IWIMRA) delivered a powerful First Nations Partner address.

“IWIMRA started in 2017 and at that point we only had about half a per cent of indigenous women participating in the industry here in Australia so I’m very glad to see the development of initiatives to welcome more indigenous women into the industry.”

IWIMRA has partnered with IMARC, working to raise the profile of First Nations women and contributing to best practice solutions ensuring the visibility, voice and quality participation of Indigenous women within the sector. 

Ms. Drummond also chaired a panel of influential industry leaders at IMARC, discussing the importance of Indigenous participation across the supply chain with a focus on the engagement and procurement of Indigenous businesses. 

It’s a very personal topic for panellist and Chair of the Barada Barna Aboriginal Corporation, Luarna Dynevor, a First Nations business owner who says it’s vitally important that Indigenous organisations have the first right to refusal when mining companies are contracting third party vendors.

“No one’s ever asked me why I own a business. I own a business to employ my own people and keep them going and make sure they have success and that’s why I push for those contracts,” says Ms. Dynevor. 

She says in the last three years engagement of Indigenous businesses has improved, but there are still a lot of obstacles. 

“We’re making these companies accountable and they’re giving us the first right of refusal. The biggest challenge though, is compliance. Big companies make it so hard for small businesses to weave and navigate their way through compliance and if you don’t have assistance in that, you’re going to fail.”

Jim Walker is the Chair of the Cooperative Research Centre for Transformation in Mining Economies’ (CRC TiME) First Nations Advisory Team, and says the importance of building relationships with Indigenous communities and businesses cannot be underestimated.

“Indigenous people need to be included not as stakeholders but as rights holders. We need to be part of the decision making. We want a real participation in all things relating to mining and beyond,” he says.

Whitehaven Coal, the sponsor of IMARC’s Indigenous Participation Program, spent $8.73 million with 14 local Aboriginal run businesses in 2021 and the company’s Aboriginal Community Relations Manager Bob Sutherland says it’s a vital contribution to these communities.

“One of the things we are keen to do is make sure First Nations businesses are successful on all levels because the biggest employers of Indigenous people are Indigenous businesses and we want to make sure they are strong, resilient and able to move forward.

“These businesses are changing people’s lives, locally. We’re making a difference, not only to the economic development within Aboriginal communities, but right across the north west of NSW,” says Mr. Sutherland.

Crucial conversations such as this will progress into the afternoon on IMARC 2022’s final day as global mining leaders continue to collaborate on trends in mining, investment and innovation towards a sustainable future.