Australian Indigenous Group Introduces Scorecard to Rate ESG Performance of Mining Companies

The Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal Corp. (“WGAC”) recently publicized its plans to issue a scorecard that rates miners in Western Australia on how well they observe the ESG (environmental, social and governance) standards. The scorecard focuses on the following elements: ESG reporting, relationships with native title holders, caring for the environment, regulatory compliance and heritage surveys.

The company speaks for the Eastern Guruma area, which is located in the Pilbara region and is rich in iron ore. The company hopes that its idea will highlight the importance of ESG standards for both the public as well as investors. This development comes after the destruction of two ancient rock shelters by Rio Tinto Plc (NYSE: RIO), a global mining group that is engaged in the exploration, discovery and extraction of the earth’s mineral resources. This action occurred in 2020 at the Aboriginal Juukan Gorge, which is 46,000 years old.

WGAC director Tony Bevan stated in an interview with Reuters that it wasn’t easy for individuals to learn about things on the ground from the native title holders, which would explain why many only had the mining firm’s view of the world. Bevan added that the group’s intent was for its plan to be a proactive and positive process. Bevan also stated that the WGAC would help other indigenous groups come up with similar scorecard systems, adding that he was open to speak with miners about the rating and metrics process.

As part of its plan, WGAC will also evaluate the performance of mining companies for a year, based on 34 queries; the results will be released and feedback being provided.

The largest mining companies in the Eastern Guruma — Rio Tinto and Fortescue — are on board with the initiative. Fortescue told Reuters that the scorecard would also gain from including business development and employment opportunities, training, a mechanism that addressed different opinions on subjective matters and yearly feedback.

This statement followed an announcement by the chairman of Rio Tinto, who declared that he would be stepping down this month, after the company attracted global attention by destroying the ancient Aboriginal site in order to extract iron ore worth $135 million. This resignation came after the departure of the Anglo-Australian mining company’s two top executives and investor disapproval in September of last year.

The initiative by WGAC is likely to foster a better working relationship between mining companies and the communities where mining operations are planned or take place.

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