​McArthur River Mine (MRM) and Bing Bong Loading Facility are situated on the traditional lands of the Gurdanji and Yanyuwa people. Today these lands continue to be important to these and other local traditional language groups including Garawa and Mara people.

MRM is an active member of the community and works closely with Traditional Owners to preserve the cultural heritage of the local Aboriginal people. We respect local customs and values and safeguard sacred sites within the footprint of our operations.

Our commitment to cultural heritage management has guided the establishment of valued relationships with local Aboriginal people and Traditional Owners. It is critical that our workforce understands the traditional rights and culture of Indigenous people and we have implemented a number of systems and processes to ensure sites of cultural significance and matters of cultural interest are identified and preserved.

Indigenous employees at MRM are an important part of our workforce, currently accounting for 16% of total employees.  We respect, recognise and value the cultural rights, practices and traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and learn from their wisdom. MRM contributes to a range of initiatives to support indigenous training such as:

  • The Strong Start Bright Future Program, which has seen two local School-based Apprenticeships at the mine.
  • Our rehabilitation crew from Robinson River keep our tree-planting program on schedule by rotating crews on alternate weeks in the planting season.
  • With our partners in the Katherine Mining Services Association, we have identified Flying Fox Station near Mataranka as a key provider for pre-employment training.

Managing access

MRM preserves and manages the identified sites in line with AAPA conditions. These call for:

  • Entry to sacred sites to be prevented

  • No work that disturbs the ground at sacred sites
  • Prevention of damage to any vegetation at sacred sites other than for specified purposes
  • No material to be stored or material to be parked near sacred sites
  • Protective fences and signage to be erected around sacred sites
  • Access permitted for cultural purposes.

Clearing permits are required for any employee or contractor undertaking works which may disturb the ground or vegetation anywhere on the mining lease, not only adjacent to sacred sites.

To apply for a permit, workers must complete an 'Application and Authorisation for Proposed Land Clearance' form, which then requires approval from each of MRM's Community Relations, Environment and Survey departments. As a further safeguard, sacred and significant sites are signposted throughout the lease area.


Site access for cultural purposes

We understand that access to sacred and significant sites is an important part of preserving the cultural heritage of the local Aboriginal people and we work closely with Traditional Owners to organise regular site visits.

As an operational mine, the health and safety of all employees and visitors is our highest priority. Therefore, anyone seeking access to the mine site for cultural purposes is asked to provide at least 48 hours' notice of the visit to the MRM Senior Community Relations Advisor. That way we can make sure it is safe to enter the area nominated or make alternative arrangements as necessary.

17 sites of cultural significance

Extensive studies, including archaeological and ethnographic surveys, have been undertaken to identify and protect culturally significant sites within MRM's lease area.

Entry to sacred sites is prohibited. Employees, contractors and visitors must obey signs.

These studies have identified 17 sites of cultural significance that either have a direct link to dreamtime stories or are important to the history and culture of the local Aboriginal people.

These sites are registered with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA). This statutory authority of the Northern Territory Government was established under complementary NT legislation in accordance with the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976.  The AAPA has issued authority certificates for the mine's operational areas in accordance with the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989.

Cultural awareness training

All staff and contractors at MRM have an important part to play in cultural heritage management. Cross Cultural Awareness Training is mandatory for all employees and contractors.

Our specially-designed course was developed by the mine in consultation with Gurdanji Traditional Owners and delivered by a local Indigenous consultancy. It provides information on manners, communication, stereotyping and relationship building. It also provides awareness of the other three language groups within the region. It clearly outlines the expectations and responsibilities of all employees and contractors in managing cultural heritage, respecting and understanding cultural norms of their Indigenous workmates and conduct of relationships within the local community.

As part of this program, MRM commissioned a DVD production, which recorded three senior Gurdanji Traditional Owners telling stories of the 'Kujika' – the Dreamtime – for their country.