Fortescue's Aboriginal programme hits A$2bn mark

16th February 2018 By: Simone Liedtke - Writer

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) - Iron-ore major Fortescue Minerals' 'billion opportunities programme' has reached the A$2-billion-mark, with 250 contracts and sub-contracts having been awarded to 110 Aboriginal businesses and joint ventures in the seven years since its inception.

CEO Nev Power said on Friday that the programme formed a critical element of the company's approach to ensuring economic opportunity and participation, which were the focus of the native title agreements.

"Through the programme, we have encouraged and assisted the development of capability and capacity of Aboriginal businesses to supply a significant portion of the goods and services we need in our business," Power added.

He said that this had provided the traditional custodians and other Aboriginal businesses the chance to build sustainable futures for their communities through the provision of genuine economic opportunity.

Traditional Palyku custodian PT Kingkira director Tammy O'Connor added in the same statement that the billion opportunities programme had provided significant benefits for her community through the opportunities for people to get a job and support their families.

"Through Fortescue's commitment and ongoing mentoring, we are able to showcase who we are and that we can be just as successful as any other business out there," she noted.

Fortescue founder and chairperson Andrew Forrest stated that billion opportunities served as the blueprint for the Forrest Review's recommendation to the commonwealth government to set indigenous procurement targets.

"I am proud that this has resulted in the implementation of the Federal Indigenous Procurement Policy in 2015, which has led to the award of over $1-billion in contracts to indigenous businesses across Australia over the past two and a half years," he said.

He further added that procurement was a powerful level for social and economic change and that a strong indigenous business sector was best placed to create employment opportunities for indigenous Australians.

The billion opportunities programme is complemented by a range of additional practical measures introduced by Fortescue to provide Aboriginal businesses with the tools to build value and sustainability.

In 2017, Fortesque introduced 14-day payment terms to help aboriginal business partners improve operational cash flow. A $50-million funding initiative with ANZ was also announced, which allows eligible businesses to access finance at a competitive rate for the purchase of equipment required to deliver services to Fortescue.