Iron ore miner Fortescue has awarded over $1 billion in contracts to indigenous companies in 2013 to date, surpassing its annual target well in advance of the year’s end.
Fortescue announced that it had surpassed its annual target for indigenous business deals after inking contracts with six Aboriginal joint ventures owned by the Native Title Groups. The contracts call for the provision of accommodation services in the Pilbara worth a total of around $500 million.
The iron ore titan originally set targets for the volume of contracts it awards to indigenous companies in December 2011 with the establishment of the Billion Opportunities program. It has since signed 102 contracts and subcontracts with over 50 indigenous owned businesses.
Under the program, a business must be at least one quarter indigenous-owned to qualify as an Aboriginal enterprise.
KPMG has since confirmed Fortescue's claim that over 80 per cent of the businesses which have received contracts under the program are more than half indigenous owned.
Fortescue CEO Nev Power said the company was proud of the business opportunities it had provided to Australia's Aboriginal community by meeting its scheduled target for indigenous business deals half a year in advance.
"I hope these contracts are just the first of many that these Aboriginal businesses secure and they each go on to become large, successful businesses providing jobs and opportunities to their communities and all of Australia," he said.
Members of the Aboriginal community have also hailed Fortescue's efforts, which serve to substantiate the company's commitment to include Indigenous Australians as economic beneficiaries of the mining sector - especially in the mineral-rich Pilbara region where so many of the country's key iron ore operations are situated.
Brian Tucker of the Nyiyaparli people said that the awarding of a contract by Fortescue was "the biggest thing that has happened to my people since mining began in the Pilbara."
"There has been a lot of frustration on our part trying to get to this point; we struggled and we felt that no one believed in us," he said. "We want to provide sustainable jobs to our people in this country and hopefully this will change communities, people's lifestyles and the environment."
This is not the first indigenous initiative launched by Fortescue, with founder and chairman Andrew Forrest previously sponsoring a number of measures to help benefit the Aboriginal community.
These include targets for Indigenous employees as part of the Summit 300 initiative, which have led to Fortescue employing a total of 461 Aboriginal people, equivalent to around 12 per cent of its workforce; and the provision of housing, occupation training and business assistance to the Yindjibarndi people of the Pilbara region.