Peter Botsman, Chief Editor of Australian Prospect, in a regular email newsletter, has been reporting on the Pilbara’s Ngarda Heavy Plant Operator Training (HPOT) Strategy which has taken 19 Indigenous men and women from unemployment to high paid, high quality work in the Australian Mining Industry. Barry Taylor, Executive Chairman of Ngarda Civil & Mining says:
“COAG bureaucrats and politicians need to read this or quit…I also want to recommend it to my hard working colleagues in the Australian Mining Industry…19 out of 20 starters finished the eight week course and in that time achieved tickets and qualifications that some employees of two years standing as operators in mining companies have not achieved.
There is still a long way for the trainees to become competent, efficient production workers. But this training showed, what I always knew was the case, that there are hundreds, probably thousands of highly capable Aboriginal people in remote areas that should be working in the Australian mining industry.
They have the highest capability and knowledge of the environment and, with their natural hand and eye coordination, they are natural machine operators. If you read one serious analysis this Christmas I implore you to read this report about what we have done and about the challenges and barriers we must still face in the future. I look forward to your ongoing support.”
From the dissatisfaction and the lack of progress in economic development for Aboriginal people in the Western Pilbara Region, the idea of an independent body that would nurture commercial opportunities developed and the Ngarda-Ngarli-Yarndu Foundation was established.
In 2001 Henry Walker Eltin, Ngarda Ngarli Yarndu Foundation Inc. and Indigenous Business Australia developed a business model they believed would give Indigenous people the training and skills necessary to meet the industries needs, thus creating a sustainable, long-term and profitable venture. This was to provide an avenue to increase Indigenous employment and involve the local Indigenous people in the benefits that flow from the resource projects of Western Australia.
Within two years of operations Ngarda and its founding partners won the 2003 Prime Ministers Awards for Large Business Excellence. The award recognised the mutual interest and determination of Ngarda’s joint venture partners, the dedication of its employees and the vision of its clients. All of these elements were seen to make Ngarda a commercially successful, cross-cultural organisation.
Ngarda Civil & Mining is the acknowledged industry leader in Indigenous employment in the Australian mining industry. IN 2006 it had a workforce of 168, 85 per cent of whom are Indigenous people. The company currently has 6 apprentices, 47 trainees and 2 Academy based trainees. There are 27 Indigenous personnel completing Certificate III in Metalliferous Mining Operations.
Ngarda’s portfolio of activities includes tailings dam, ore handling and hauling, civils, stevedoring and shiploading, contract mining, earthworks, road and rail construction, mine site support services, haul rail maintenance, crushing and screening operations, environmental rehabilitation and services.
Ngarda has a strong reputation for high quality outcomes. Contractual obligations are always met with high safety standards throughout all operations. Training is a major investment and the company has learned by doing. Currently Ngarda is the preferred supplier of Indigenous employees for the mining industry because it is the pre-eminent company for conducting and assessing mining training of Indigenous people.
Currently some 140 Indigenous personnel are employed at three significant projects, Finucane Island Plant, Nelson Point both for BHP Billiton Iron Ore at Port Hedland, and the Robe River Mine for Rio Tinto’s Pilbara Iron at Pannawonica and West Angelas.