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Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples

Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples

Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples of the lands, waters and territories on which South32 is located and where we conduct our business around the world.  

We respect and acknowledge the unique cultural and spiritual relationships that Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples have to the lands, waters and territories, and their rich contribution to society. 

In the spirit of respect and reconciliation, we will continue to support initiatives that strengthen culture and ways of life so that their legacy continues and extends to future generations. 

Shared value

We can only operate and realise the potential of mineral resources with the support of our Indigenous and Tribal communities. We identify ways to work in partnership with communities to ensure we share the benefits from realising the potential of mineral resources. From providing jobs and business opportunities, to empowering suppliers and supporting community programs, we know we can make a significant contribution. Aligned with our Community Investment Approach, we are committed to deliver long term opportunities, through employment, procurement, community investment and training in partnership with our Indigenous stakeholders. To read more about our recent performance, please see our annual Sustainable Development Report.  

Working with communities

We are committed to working with our local communities including Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples to achieve the best possible outcomes wherever we operate.


In Australia, we operate in four different states and one territory. Further details of the Traditional Owners, Registered Aboriginal Parties and those parties that speak for Aboriginal Cultural Heritage in these regions are outlined in our Innovate Reconciliation Plan.

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South Africa and Mozambique

Many host communities around our operations in southern Africa have strong connections to the land with unique tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Traditional groups maintain distinct local customs, particularly near our operations in the Northern Cape province.

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We work with 25 local communities which surround Cerro Matoso including 11 Zenú Indigenous organisations and three Afro-Colombian communities.

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United States

We have two future development options in the US – in Arizona and Alaska – where there is engagement with Indigenous stakeholders with the aim of building respectful positive relationships and providing opportunities.

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Reconciliation in Australia   

Because of the work we do, and the impact it has on communities around Australia, we’re committed to reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.  Our Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) outlines how we’ll do this, and what we’ll do to create and sustain meaningful and respectful relationships.  

Our vision for reconciliation is for an Australia that embraces the histories and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and that, as a nation, we work collectively toward supporting all Australians. We have much to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and want to work together to support their vision and their future. We believe that working together will provide meaningful opportunities for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and South32.  

As stated in our Innovate RAP, South32 endorses the Uluru Statement from the Heart as the pathway toward reconciliation, put forward by Australia’s First Nations people. We encourage all Australians to take part in the conversations on Constitutional reform, a Makarrata Commission and seek to learn about our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history. Now is the time for Australia to come together and heal as one, so that we can truly be a nation for all.  


Read more about our commitment to reconciliation in our  Innovate RAP.  

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ Cultural Heritage   

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 engage with Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples to better understand 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.