WA Iron Ore to double spend with Pilbara Traditional Owners and Indigenous businesses

BHP’s WA Iron Ore (WAIO) operations are big – and so too are its aspirations for increasing annual contracted spend with Pilbara Traditional Owners and Indigenous businesses.

“This financial year, BHP WAIO is forecast to spend over $140M directly with over 70 Indigenous businesses. This annual spend is expected to more than double by 2023-24 to more than $300 million a year,” explains WAIO Asset President Brandon Craig.

“BHP wants to do much more to build sustainable, profitable and enduring partnerships with Indigenous businesses across our operations, and we are working hard at all levels of BHP to make this happen.”

To drive momentum and social value outcomes, WAIO has established Project Rise – a strategic initiative led by senior Asset and Functions leaders, to facilitate collaboration, alignment and support – and more business opportunities - between BHP and Traditional Owner and Indigenous suppliers.

Coinciding with its launch of Project Rise, BHP announced the signing of a $9.2 million contract with Karlka FenceWright – a wholly owned subsidiary of the Karlka Nyiyaparli Aboriginal Corporation (KNAC).

Under the contract, Karlka will fabricate and install approximately five kilometres of fencing at six of WAIO’s villages in Newman, which house 1350 fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce residents. Up to 80 people will be employed on the fencing project and Karlka is seeking to employ Indigenous people in at least 15 per cent of those roles. Many of the fencing panels will feature the work of Traditional Owner, senior Nyiyaparli elder and artist Victor Parker. The fencing upgrade is part of a $300m security upgrade project across all WAIO camps.

The Karlka contract represents BHP’s commitment to long-term, meaningful relationships with Traditional Owner groups and follows other recent contract awards, valued at over $150M, including:

  • A five-year contract with Kingkira, a 100 per cent Nyiyaparli-owned and operated business, to deliver road sweeping services across WAIO’s Port Hedland, Newman, and Mining Area C operations.
  • A five-year stemming contract awarded to Lorrex, a Banjima and Nyiyaparli owned Indigenous business, currently mobilising to the WAIO Pilbara operations of: Mining Area C, South Flank & Jimblebar.
  • An award to Ngurrura, a 100 per cent owned and operated Pilbara Aboriginal Traditional Owner company, to recover 44kt of crushed ore material from Mining Area C, with more than 70 per cent Aboriginal employment on the project, engaged via the BHP Local Buying Program and;
  • A long-term partnership extended with North West Alliance (NWA), a Palyku Joint Venture business, to service Waste management across our Pilbara Asset.

In the year to January 2022, WAIO’s Indigenous procurement spend increased by 44 per cent, with further acceleration anticipated through a growing pipeline of new partnerships and sourcing and economic opportunities for local Traditional Owner and other Indigenous-owned businesses.

“Our partnership with Karlka FenceWright and the Nyiyaparli people, which we are celebrating today, is just one of many wonderful partnerships that we hope to build upon into the future,” Brandon said.

“Contracts like this support the growth of Indigenous enterprise and innovation and create new opportunities for those businesses to support their own communities – something Indigenous business does best.”