External probe finds Sandfire disturbed artefact scatters at DeGrussa

5th June 2024 By: Mariaan Webb - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

External probe finds Sandfire disturbed artefact scatters at DeGrussa

Copper miner Sandfire Resources chairperson John Richards on Wednesday apologised to traditional owners Yugunga-Nya for failing to protect artefact scatters during the construction of the Monty mine at its DeGrussa operations, north of Meekatharra in Western Australia.

This comes as the ASX-listed company published the findings of an external investigation, led by law firm Gilbert + Tobin, into the disturbance of artefact scatters in 2017 and 2018.

The report found that the disturbances occurred “in error due to ignorance and process failings within Sandfire”.

Apologising to the Yugunga-Nya, Richards said that the investigation highlighted systematic failures in the company’s management systems and a lack of appreciation of Aboriginal heritage at the time that the damage occurred.

The probe also determined that Sandfire was not historically organised in a way that would ensure such disturbances could not occur.

Collectively, these findings confirm a failing of Sandfire’s then executive management, leading up to and at the time of the disturbances, to define line accountability for heritage, ensure appropriately experienced senior personnel were in place to manage heritage deeper within the organisation and that the necessary processes were operating effectively.

Richards said that since the appointment of Brendan Harris as Sandfire CEO in April last year, the company had made significant progress to develop the strategy, systems and structures necessary to manage the newly expanded business and execute the next phase of the group’s growth.

Harris has built a new executive leadership team, adding important skills and experience to Sandfire, including the appointment of its first chief sustainability officer.

“Mr Harris acted quickly and decisively when he heard of the disturbance of the artefact scatters and the board commends the work he and his team are doing to rebuild our relationship with the Yugunga-Nya and ensure we deliver on our broader obligations and commitments to them. The board is focused on the ongoing protection of cultural heritage at our DeGrussa operation, and everywhere we operate, recognising that our responsibilities extend well beyond mere legal compliance,” said Richards.

He also said that Sandfire’s decision to retain DeGrussa and rehabilitate the operation meant that the company would maintain a presence in the region for many years to come.

"Sandfire’s failure to protect the artefact scatters and to quickly escalate the issue once identified is unacceptable. The development of the Sandfire Way, a new way of working through a robust framework of policies, standards, and procedures, founded on our ‘Don’t Walk Past‘ philosophy, is evidence of our determination in this regard. It is noted that Sandfire is being led by a completely new executive team than at the time of the heritage survey in 2016 and when the artefacts were disturbed,” said Richards.

The board is still awaiting finds of the Western Australian Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage’s investigation into the matter.