Our Aboriginal cultural heritage team, together with Traditional Owners and external specialists, invested 145 work days towards managing cultural heritage
Our cultural heritage programme has been developed to ensure we meet our internal, statutory and community obligations with respect to the consultation, identification, assessment, protection and management of Aboriginal cultural heritage and enable access to land for development activities for all of our operations, projects and lands.
During 2011, heritage activities maintained excellent safety standards, recording no lost time injuries and only one minor medical treatment injury. With significant wet seasons experienced in both Queensland and New South Wales, vegetation cover, surface water and wildlife (such as snakes) present significant operational safety challenges for heritage fieldwork operations. Ground hazard reduction burning programmes were implemented in collaboration with environmental personnel to reduce ground cover and vastly improve ground surface visibility. This resulted in a significant improvement in ground conditions for heritage surveys while also protecting environmental values at Clermont and Hail Creek mines. 2011 saw the continued expansion of on and offsite heritage management activities associated with ongoing risk management requirements, ground disturbance permits, and several project development and operational expansion programmes.
In New South Wales, the heritage programme was primarily focused on implementing heritage management measures, including cultural heritage site monitoring under the Hunter Valley Operations South Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Plan, additional assessment of new lands acquired at our Mount Pleasant Project, and ongoing assessment surveys of various non-operational lands situated around our Hunter Valley mines. Other heritage management activities included salvage mitigation works at the Mount Thorley Warkworth and Hunter Valley Operations mines.
An additional key focus in New South Wales was the implementation of an Aboriginal cultural heritage conservation areas (ACHCA) initiative in collaboration with the Coal & Allied Upper Hunter Valley Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Working Group. During 2011, Aboriginal heritage conservation areas under collaborative management with the Cultural Heritage Working Group were the Wollombi Brook ACHCA (500ha), at Mount Thorley Warkworth, and the Broomfield ACHCA (500ha) associated with the Mount Pleasant Project. Additional assessments of other Rio Tinto Coal Australia lands were also conducted during 2011 to identify more areas of cultural significance for consideration as potential conservation areas.
The Coal & Allied Cultural Heritage Working Group is the primary consultation forum with the Aboriginal community of the Upper Hunter Valley, which met on five occasions during 2011. The Cultural Heritage Working Group, comprised of 35 registered Aboriginal Parties (groups and individuals), reviews and endorses all matters pertaining to the assessment and management of Aboriginal cultural heritage associated with Rio Tinto Coal Australia operations, projects and lands in the Upper Hunter Valley. Key outcomes of Cultural Heritage Working Group consultation for 2011 included the endorsement of the Mount Pleasant Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Plan, the Broomfield ACHCA and Stage 1 Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit application and the Warkworth Mine Stage 3 Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit application.
In Queensland, Rio Tinto Coal Australia continued to implement and maintain cultural heritage management agreements with our Traditional Owners associated with operations at Hail Creek Mine (Wiri People), Kestrel Mine (Kangoulu People) and Clermont Region (Wangan & Jagalingou Peoples). Rio Tinto Coal Australia also entered into exploration agreements with the Barada Barna People and the Wiri People Core Country native title claimant groups, who are the Traditional Owners of the lands within the southern and northern portions (respectively) of the Elphinstone exploration project area. These agreements relate to exploration projects being conducted collaboratively with Rio Tinto Exploration on our coal tenements in the central Bowen Basin.
During 2011, Rio Tinto Coal Australia maintained a minimum five year Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment buffer (baseline assessments) and three year mitigation buffer, based on planned project and operation land access requirements for most projects and current operations. Audits of the Rio Tinto Coal Australia Cultural Heritage Management System's compliance with Rio Tinto Cultural Heritage Management standard (2011) were conducted for both Kestrel Mine (May 2011) and Mount Pleasant Project (November 2011). Both the Kestrel Mine and Mount Pleasant Project heritage management audits resulted in six commendations for each site and external validation of the integrity and comprehensiveness of the cultural heritage processes implemented at these sites.
During 2011 there were no breaches of statutory requirements for the management of Aboriginal cultural heritage involving the unauthorised disturbance of a heritage sites in either Queensland or New South Wales. There were four low or moderate incidents involving non-conformances with cultural heritage management procedures reported during 2011. To address these non-conformances, procedural requirements were revised and reinforced with site personnel through general and specific inductions, supervisor training, toolbox discussions and procedural and management system improvements.
|Number of heritage management mobilisations||54||47||46|
|Number of site work days||177||144||145|
|Aboriginal heritage management programme teams person days on site||973||1211||976|