SYDNEY, July 12 (Xinhua) -- A zinc producer in Australia's far north is set to hire a workforce made up of 50 percent indigenous staff, after a landmark joint partnership agreement was reached with the local aboriginal community.
Situated in Queensland state's Gulf of Carpentaria, the area around the New Century Resources mine site is a vast and remote region.
Although a beautiful landscape with such isolation, many indigenous communities nearby have experienced high levels of unemployment and a significant amount of social disadvantage.
That's why local aboriginal workers will be prioritized under the new joint venture arrangement between the Downer Group, a large mining services company which will oversee the New Century zinc mine -- and the traditional landowners, the Waanyi people.
"It's a deal that we haven't seen done anywhere else in Australia before," head of corporate affairs for New Century Resources, Shane Goodwin, told Xinhua recently.
"Last year, we announced a Cultural Heritage Management Agreement with the Waanyi people, which provides access to some known mineral resources that have the potential, if they're mined, to impact on sites of cultural significance."
"So we went through a process of negotiating with the Waanyi people to have access to those mineral resources, but they made it very clear to us that although the compensation arrangements are important what they're really interested in is undertaking the work and being part of the work." But as well as a commitment to employing members of the indigenous community with a 50 percent target, Goodwin said the agreement actually goes one step further.
"From our perspective, the more important aspect is that the Waanyi people will be genuine 50 percent joint venture partners, so the profits derived from all of the work will be shared 50/50 between the Waanyi-Downer corporate entity," he said.
With the site effectively shut down in 2016, in 2017 New Century Resource set a plan in place to begin the economic rehabilitation of the site.
In this process, operators will pick up the waste product from the past 20 years of mining and extract any remaining valuable minerals.
New Century Resources then hopes to use the profits generated to develop other hard rock areas of the site which have not yet been mined. Used mainly in galvanizing steel, around 50 percent of New Century's zinc is sent to China.
"The smelters in China have been very receptive of having Century back on the radar as a provider of zinc concentrate into the marketplace and that's been really positive and a really good experience," Goodwin said.
"So in two ways, we have that relationship with China, both as a customer, but also as a massive supporter on the economic rehabilitation story." The new project is expected to begin before the end of 2020.