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Our Approach to Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples Engagement



Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples are critical partners and stakeholders for South32. We seek to work collaboratively with Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples to preserve cultural heritage and advance opportunities for economic participation and social inclusion. 

Throughout the mining lifecycle, we engage with and learn from Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples so we can understand their aspirations, interests and perspectives.


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 that these relationships underpin their physical, spiritual, cultural and economic wellbeing.

We respect the collective rights of Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples, including the right to self-determination, and the right to enjoy and maintain their traditional knowledge, distinctive spiritual practices and traditional ways of life.

We understand many Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples have experienced historical, and often continuing, disadvantage due to factors such as inequality, racism, mistreatment and intergenerational trauma through dispossession.

We respect and utilise regional terms and, where possible, recognise and use the specific names as identified by a group, supporting self-identification.

Our commitment

We are committed to building strong relationships that enable us to work in partnership with Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples. We seek to contribute to their cultural wellbeing and deliver long-term opportunities, through employment, procurement, social investment and training. This commitment, and the long-term nature of our operations, enables us to develop and foster lasting relationships.

Meeting our committment

Meeting our committment

The principles that support us to meet our commitment include:
  • The culture of Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples is living and evolving, connected to the past, present and future;
  • In the spirit of respect and reconciliation, we support initiatives that strengthen culture and ways of life so that the legacies of Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples and their rich contribution to society continues and extends to future generations, and to their broader regional identity;
  • We contribute to economic empowerment and cultural wellbeing by supporting initiatives that help address historical disadvantage experienced by many Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples;
  • To realise the potential of mineral resources through expansion of existing or new activities, we aim to operate with the support of Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal communities and work together to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes;
  • Our engagement with Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples will be sensitive to and respect cultural and legal protocols; and
  • We tailor our approach to the individual context relevant to our operations and projects.

Our management approach

Our approach to Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples engagement is intended to be collaborative, inclusive and focused on codesign.
  • We identify the Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples of the lands, waters and territories relevant to our operations and projects through a process of continuous engagement while respecting the right of self-identification.
  • We engage with Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples using culturally appropriate methods throughout the mining lifecycle, to foster relationships based on transparency and trust.
  • We make available and regularly review our community complaints and other “Speak Up” processes so that they are readily available for use by Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples to provide feedback, complaints or concerns.
  • We undertake social baseline studies, social and human rights impact and opportunity assessments and stakeholder engagement to understand and act upon the impacts and opportunities for Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples where we operate.
  • We collaborate with Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples to identify social investment programs that are aligned with their aspirations and needs.
  • We work with Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples to create sustainable economic and employment opportunities associated with our operations.
  • We manage our approach to cultural heritage in consultation with Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples.
  • We apply the principles and processes of free, prior, and informed consent in seeking to obtain and maintain agreed outcomes with Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples where adverse impacts are likely to occur to them, including as a result of relocation or disturbance of land and territories or cultural heritage.
  • We seek to agree on and document engagement and consultation plans, and where possible, agreements, with potentially impacted Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples.
  • We recognise the data sovereignty of Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples, and respect the ownership and use of information and data about them.
  • We celebrate and promote Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples’ culture. Working in partnership with Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples, we will develop and deliver training for employees, contractors and visitors to increase their cultural awareness.

What guides us

What guides us

Our approach to Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples engagement is guided by global standards and initiatives including:
  • International Finance Corporation Performance Standards (specifically Standards 7 and 8);
  • ICMM Mining Principles: 3 – Human Rights, 4 – Risk Management and 9 – Social Performance, and the associated ICMM Position Statement on Indigenous People and Mining;
  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – Targets 10.2 and 11.4;
  • United Nations Global Compact Principles;
  • International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples; United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage;
  • UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage;
  • UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage; and
  • Australia ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (Burra Charter).

Our commitment to Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples engagement is supported by our Board-approved Sustainability Policy and managed through our internal social performance standard, which is supplemented by operational procedures that account for local and regional operating conditions and regulatory requirements.

We comply with local laws, and where applicable law differs from the commitments in this approach, we seek to follow the higher standard. Where there is a conflict between local law and this approach, we will comply with applicable law while seeking to meet our Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples engagement commitments.


Our Board has ultimate responsibility for our company’s governance and strategic direction. Our Sustainability Committee assists the Board in its oversight of our sustainability management, performance, assurance and reporting practises. This includes endorsing our publicly disclosed Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples engagement commitments to the Board for approval, and monitoring the adequacy and effectiveness of our management approach. 

Management accountability is assigned to our Chief Legal and External Affairs Officer, with responsibility for implementation within the mandate of External Affairs.

We periodically undertake internal assurance and, independent third-party assurance, where appropriate, to assess compliance with our internal social performance standard, as well as the ICMM Mining Principles and associated Performance Expectations, with a view to continually improving Indigenous, Traditional and Tribal Peoples engagement and performance across our operating footprint.


This approach applies to all Directors, management, employees, contractors and third parties who act on behalf of South32. We endeavour to influence our non-operated joint ventures to support the adoption of standards of conduct consistent with ours, as relevant within the limits of the joint venture arrangements.

Our approach will be reviewed every two years, or more frequently, if necessary, so it remains relevant and appropriate to South32’s Indigenous Traditional and Tribal Peoples engagement. It was considered by the Board Sustainability Committee, and approved by our Chief Executive Officer in September 2023.