Australian Miners Adopt Stricter Rules for Indigenous and Environmental Impacts

The Collinsville open cut coal mine in Queensland, Australia.

The Collinsville open cut coal mine in Queensland, Australia. Dean Sewell/Greenpeace

Australian mining companies will now be required to follow stricter rules governing the impacts of their projects on First Nations communities and the environment, according to new guidelines adopted by the Minerals Council of Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The decision makes Australia the eighth country globally to adopt the Towards Sustainable Mining initiative, which was started by Canada. The initiative requires mining companies to consistently evaluate relationships with indigenous communities, labor practices, and environmental impacts, including energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, and tailings waste. Previous signatories include national mining associations in Finland, Argentina, Botswana, Spain, the Philippines, Brazil, and Norway.

“Trust has been discussed a lot across corporate Australia over the past few years,” Tania Constable, the chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), told The Herald. “This is how the industry can further demonstrate trust in the mining industry at a community level.”

The MCA’s decision to adopt the requirements for its members comes after years of growing mistrust between the Australian mining sector and First Nations communities, the public, and international investors. Following the destruction of 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters by the Rio Tinto mining project last year, a collective of global investors told Australia’s natural resource companies to improve Indigenous and environmental relations or risk a loss of capital.

Indigenous leaders supported the new guidelines, but said they ultimately still want legislative reform for the mining industry. “Our places, our sites, our history deserve better, and we demand strong reforms,” Bobby Nunggumajbarr, chairman of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, told The Herald. “When strong reforms are enacted and our places are protected, all Australians will benefit.”