Many of our operations and projects intersect areas of cultural significance and we understand we have a critical role to play in preserving cultural heritage.

We acknowledge the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the lands where we operate and where we conduct our business around the world. 

We respect the unique cultural and spiritual relationships that Indigenous and Tribal Peoples have to the land, waters and seas, and their rich contribution to society and we are committed to working together to build lasting, meaningful relationships for the benefit of all.

Guided by our values of care, trust, togetherness and excellence we continually work to strengthen and enhance our approach to preserving cultural heritage.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ Cultural Heritage

In Australia, we engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across our operations to ensure we understand our commitments to manage cultural areas of significance. Many of our operations and projects intersect areas of cultural significance, such as anthropological sites which have spiritual importance, and significant waterways with links to Dreamtime stories shared by the Traditional Owners. We believe it is important for cultural heritage and mining to co-exist in Australia and we are committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, government and industry to achieve the best outcomes. 

Our approach 

In 2020, we reviewed and updated our approach to cultural heritage management at our Australian operations and developed a set of principles to guide our approach. We worked together with our operations and more than 10 Indigenous and Tribal People Groups or representative bodies and with their feedback, we updated Our Approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Cultural Heritage.

We acknowledge the challenges in articulating a global approach to cultural heritage and using broad terms to describe what is a diverse and evolving area. This approach focuses only on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ cultural heritage, with separate documents to be developed for our other operating regions. In all cases, we are committed to working with our stakeholders and we comply with local laws and regulations, including those relating to the protection of cultural heritage.

Our policies and standards

Our processes are integrated across the business so that site work programs consider areas of cultural significance and the views of traditional and local communities. These processes and cultural heritage approvals are outlined in our standards, which define performance requirements for our operations. The standards are implemented at each operation by relevant site-based subject matter experts, including members of the operation’s leadership team. Implementation of our standards is governed by a three lines of defence model, which includes periodic self-assessments, stewardship reviews and assurance activities.

Our governance

Members of our senior leadership team are accountable for maintaining and reviewing our community and environment standards, which define performance requirements for cultural heritage management. Our standards are approved by the Chief Executive Officer.

At each site, the Vice President of Operations is accountable for fulfilling the requirements of the standards, supported by our community relations and environment teams.

The South32 Board has oversight of our relationships with Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and cultural heritage management through:

  • Quarterly community reports to the Board Sustainability Committee;
  • Annual review and approval of our Sustainable Development Report;
  • Annual update on Reconciliation Action Plan implementation; and
  • Special briefings on material risks and issues.

Our Board members visit a number of South32 sites each year and, in doing so, engage with Indigenous and Tribal Peoples with the aim of increasing their understanding, appreciation and recognition of Indigenous laws, traditions and customs, and the distinct spiritual relationship and connection to traditionally owned or occupied lands.

Our cultural heritage management work is supported by cultural awareness and competency training for our employees, which is tailored to the local context of each of our locations.

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