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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: Six ways the mining industry is celebrating Indigenous Peoples

9 August 2022
By Danielle Martin, Director – Social Performance, ICMM, from Kaurna Country.

Indigenous women perform crucial roles as knowledge keepers, human rights defenders, and caretakers within their communities. They bring essential knowledge and skills, passed down from generation to generation, on the stewardship and preservation of lands.

It is fitting therefore that this year’s theme for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebrates the role of Indigenous women in the transmission and preservation of traditional knowledge. It also acknowledges the intersecting layers of discrimination that Indigenous women often suffer based on gender, class, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

At ICMM, we are observing this day by reflecting on how the mining and metals industry is working to better understand and respect the distinct rights, interests, and cultures of Indigenous, Aboriginal or First Nations Peoples; promote the uplifting and protection of marginalised Indigenous women (and women more broadly); and create more effective models for engagement, partnership and decision-making with Indigenous Peoples in mining.

In all too recent memory, the relationship between the mining industry and Indigenous Peoples has been marked by disputes over land access, the impact of operations on the local environment and recognition of Indigenous rights. I would like to see a shift in how these relationships are approached so that mining operations (and indeed the planet), can learn from the perspectives, knowledge and skills Indigenous People are custodians of.

ICMM’s new strategy sets us on a path to achieve ambitious collective action on key sustainability challenges including on Indigenous Peoples, human rights and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In these areas there is a clear emphasis on collaboration and collective leadership to address systematic barriers to diverse and inclusive cultures in the industry. Practically this means engaging collectively with audiences including Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, and our members to review and assess existing member commitments and guidance, and in the case of DEI, we are looking to develop an industry leadership position which contributes to equitable opportunities and outcomes for all people.

There are already a number of examples of work being undertaken by our members to build meaningful relationships and opportunities for partnership with Indigenous communities. I’ve picked just six to share but there are many more:

UN Women Originarias Programme and Teck Extend Partnership to Empower more Indigenous Women in Chile

The UN Women Originarias programme was developed to help empower Indigenous women in Northern Chile. Through dedicated projects, Indigenous Woman are provided with training and skills development opportunities to help strengthen their economic and social empowerment. This includes courses on network building, business leadership and mentoring plans. Teck has been a partner of the programme since 2016, and as a result of their investment, over 1,000 Indigenous Women have received training in subjects across science, technology, engineering, the arts, and maths (STEAM). Find out more here.

BHP Foundation’s support to Revitalise Indigenous Language for Current and Future Generations

Language is fundamental to how Indigenous Peoples communicate their understanding and spiritual connection to the world. Through the Supporting Indigenous Language Revitalization (SILR) project, a partnership with the University of Alberta in Canada, the BHP Foundation is supporting a community-led programme to aid language revitalisation efforts. The work they are doing is critical in contributing to a future where Indigenous languages are widely spoken in homes, schools, and workplaces. Find out more here.

Newmont’s Global Center for Indigenous Community Relations

Newmont is working to advocate for excellence in engagement with Indigenous Peoples, both within Newmont and across the industry through its Global Center for Indigenous Community Relations. Established in 2020 and formalized in 2021, the Center aspires to be a respected source of dialogue, collected knowledge and shared experiences to improve Newmont’s practices and contribute to advancing the industry’s approach to engagement with Indigenous communities. Find out more here.

Orano’s contribution to the Lac La Ronge Woodland Wellness, Healing and Recovery Centre

Orano Canada has been contributing towards the development of a wellness, healing and recovery centre for communities close to their operations in Northern Saskatchewan. The centre offers intervention and care for up to 24 people at a time and delivers treatment through a combination of western and traditional therapies. Through consultation with local communities, these treatments reflect the values, culture and heritage of local Indigenous Peoples. This facility supports employees, their families and the local community. Find our more here.

Vale and the Xikrin People of Catete celebrate their 40-year relationship through historic agreement

Recently, a landmark agreement has been signed underlining Vale’s commitment to work with the Xikrin People as a development partner. At its very foundation, the objective of this agreement is to build on existing relationships and to develop new relationships between Vale and the Xikrin People, based on mutual trust, respect and consistent dialogue. In the 40 years that Vale has worked with the Xikrin People, the company has provided health-care services at local hospitals; supported the Memory Project which through books and a digital platform, provides a collection of chants, rituals, histories, and narratives of Indigenous Peoples; and worked with ICMBio to protect 1.2 million hectares of forest, connected to the Xikrin Indigenous Land. Find out more here.

Alcoa Foundation’s Expanded Partnership to Aid First Nation’s Empowerment in Australia

Empowerment of local Indigenous People’s is a central objective of Alcoa Foundation’s partnership with the Waaliti Foundation. Through this partnership, Alcoa will be supporting the Waaliti Foundation’s business and employment programmes, helping to boost business opportunities for Indigenous Peoples in areas close to their operations in Western Australia. Find out more here.


Through ICMM’s Mining Principles, and Indigenous Peoples Position Statement our members are committed to respecting the rights, interests, cultures and natural-resource based livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples in project design, development and operation. Our members commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is also reflected in recent updates to our Mining Principles. This update has reinforced the integral role of DEI to sustainable development, provided additional actions to eliminate all forms of harassment and unfair discrimination from our workplaces, and proactive steps to achieve gender equity and the unincumbered participation of all peoples.

As these case studies and the work undertaken by ICMM demonstrates, progress is being made, but there remains work to do. The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples helps steel our resolve to double-down on developing the tools needed to support a responsible mining sector that works in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, and especially Indigenous women, towards a just and inclusive future.