Aboriginal-Owned Bauxite Operation Supported by Rio Tinto Opens on Australia’s North Coast

Anglo-Australian metals giant Rio Tinto Group announced the opening of an Indigenous-owned bauxite mining operation and associated training center in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The Gulkula Regional Training Centre and Gulkula bauxite mining operation opened over the weekend at Dhupuma Plateau, adjacent to the Gulkula mine in Northeast Arnhem Land. Though receiving support from Rio Tinto, the operation is fully owned by the Gumatj clan through the Gumatj Corporation. The project is the first Aboriginal-owned mining operation and training center on land to open under the auspices of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

Established using A$2.4 million from Rio Tinto, the company has also pledged to purchase the bauxite ore brought to the surface at the site. In addition to Rio Tinto’s contribution, Gumatj Corporation and the Northern Territory and Australian Governments also provided funding for the venture.

According to projections, the project will have a fifteen-year life and produce around half a million metric tons of bauxite per annum over the first four years of operation.

“This is a proud moment and a great achievement for the Gumatj people who are the Traditional Owners of the land that the mineral lease has been granted over,” said Northern Territory resources minister Ken Vowles.

“This project will open up opportunities for the Aboriginal people of the region.”

Gumatj Corporation CEO Klaus Helms lauded the significance of the mine and the economic benefit it is expected to provide the local Aboriginal population.

“With Rio Tinto’s support, Yolngu people can now receive on-the-job training through Gumatj mining operations. The skills they develop will open up opportunities for them to build careers in the mining industry in the Northern Territory and beyond.”

“The bauxite sales agreement we signed with Rio Tinto also signifies their commitment to ensuring the success of our new mine,” opined Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations managing director Bruce Cox. “We are very excited to begin production later this year and start generating economic benefits for our local region.”



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