A man and woman, both smiling and in orange hi-vis shirts, stand inside a greenhouse.

The ground-up ideas helping us grow

Rehabilitation planning is a process that starts well before resource extraction and continues well after. Beyond our environmental and regulatory commitments, we are increasingly considering social value by partnering with the community and our stakeholders to determine final landform and create opportunities during rehabilitation.

At Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO), our Yandi site, which has provided high grade ore since production commenced in 1991, is reaching the end of its life. It’s here that Superintendent Site Rehabilitation, Michelle Adams, leads a hands-on program that’s expediting rehabilitation and creating an exciting employment and training pathway for the Banjima people, the Traditional Owners of the land Yandi sits on in the central Pilbara.

Michelle said, “the importance of land to Aboriginal people is central to our culture and our connection to country. So the ability to engage Traditional Owners in activities that actually go around healing country is really important.”

In partnership with the Banjima Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, 12 trainee positions have been created in the Site Rehabilitation team at Yandi for Banjima people. A combination of specialised classroom learning facilitated by North Regional TAFE and on-the-job training is building knowledge which will be critical to the resources industry in the decades to come.

An on-site Tree Nursery, built and managed end-to-end by the trainees, currently plays home to approximately 600 trees which are being progressively planted in the rehabilitation area. Carefully cultivated from unique native seeds supplied by an Indigenous-owned business, the nursery is expected to reach its 20,000 tree capacity within five years.

For Michelle, that’s just one part of the story. The other is the value of strong relationships with Traditional Owners – whether employees, contractors or other partners.

“Increasing Traditional Owner representation in our business is important but so is the experience they have with us,” Michelle said. “For us, it’s about co-designing training, development and employment opportunities over the long-term as well supporting the growth of Indigenous-owned companies.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Paul Lethbridge, a Banjima man and Site Rehabilitation trainee who joined the program in late 2021 – his first role in the resources industry having previously been a Banjima Ranger.

“I feel happier working on my own country and building my skills up,” Paul said. “I’m glad the nursery is up and running because there’s more trees are growing and Mother Nature is coming back to heal the country.”

With the first cohort of six trainees due to graduate with a Certificate II in Conservation and Ecosystems towards the end of 2022, the qualifications open the door for ongoing opportunities at BHP and in the creation of specialist Indigenous-owned businesses.

BHP puts great emphasis on elevating the passion and perspectives of its workforce and this program is no exception. The brainchild of Michelle Adams and Ross West, Superintendent Site Rehabilitation, it is an exceptional example of a unique ground-up concept strengthened by leadership endorsement and support.

The program, funded by the existing closure provision at Yandi, is being considered for deployment across WAIO and Minerals Australia more broadly.

Find out more about our social value commitments at: bhp.com/socialvalue