Business opportunities, impossible to contemplate in the past, have been opened up for the Indigenous people of the Borroloola region in the Gulf of Carpentaria thanks to Carpentaria Shipping Services (CSS), a joint venture between P&O, IBA and an Indigenous group, Mawa Riinbi.
In a traditional Indigenous community with few skills and economic opportunities, CSS has not only been a profitable investment with a strong cash flow, it has also enabled the Mawa Riinbi group to address a series of socioeconomic needs. The benefits range from the immediate, of employment and income resources to longer term such as education and training.
The joint venture ships zinc/lead concentrate from the McArthur River Mine (MRM)—barging it from the Port of Bing Bong, in the Gulf of Carpentaria—to ships anchored 30km offshore.
Since commencing operations, Mawa Riinbi has utilised profit distributions to purchase some of IBA’s equity; Mawa Riinbi started with 25% and has steadily increased this stake to its current position. It has also reinvested some of the funds by acquiring additional equity in the project and by purchasing heavy equipment to lease to the mine’s operators.
MRM’s recent approval to move from underground mining to open cut means that the mine will produce much higher volumes in the years to come, with even greater potential for the Mawa Riinbi people. According to Richard Appleby, General Manager of P&O’s Cargo Services and Chairperson of CSS, one of the key benefits of being involved with an IBA joint venture is the sustainability of outcomes and “making sure Indigenous people have an opportunity to acquire and build wealth rather than just take handouts. And that is not apparent with all partnerships”. He is also very receptive to new opportunities presented to him by IBA.
“IBA has made us aware of what is happening in Indigenous communities and if they think they have an appropriate opportunity for us to be involved, they come to us straightaway and we work together in seeing if there is a viable outcome.”
The continued success of the CSS venture, together with the ongoing relationship between IBA and P&O, promises to deliver further benefits to the Mawa Riinbi group who have established and retained the capacity to grow in the future.