Media release

FMG AGM: Support WA Aboriginals’ calls to pause current ACH Bill

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility​ (ACCR) is commenting on the voting results of its  Shareholder Resolution at the AGM of Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG), which was held today.

ACCR’s resolution requested that the company publicly support WA Aboriginal peoples’ calls on the Western Australian Government to pause the enactment of the draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2020 in its current form, and to engage in good faith with WA Aboriginal Traditional Owners and their representative organisations to co-design improved WA cultural heritage protection law and regulations.

The resolution was filed with the support of the National Native Title Council and the WA Aboriginal Heritage Alliance.

Commenting on the results of the AGM, James Fitzgerald, Legal Counsel at ACCR said:

“Like other Pilbara mining companies, FMG has benefited from weak, sub-standard Western Australian cultural heritage protection laws for many years, to the detriment of Pilbara Aboriginal Traditional Owners affected by its mining operations. FMG itself is not immune from controversy in its dealings with affected Aboriginal communities.

“The Commonwealth Juukan Gorge Destruction Inquiry has recently reported that the WA Government’s current draft  Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill does “not come close” to achieving the level of change needed to prevent a similar disaster from occurring again.

“WA Aboriginal Groups are deeply concerned, and ask for no more than a seat at the table, an opportunity to be involved in the design of the new law, which directly affects their interests.

“The WA Government may not pay much heed to Aboriginal people, but it pays careful attention to the views and wishes of the Pilbara mining giants. Our modest resolution was intended as an invitation to FMG to match its words with practical support for WA Aboriginal groups’ position.

“FMG appears to support better heritage protection standards in theory, but not in practice.

“Fortescue claims to lend its support to the relevant Inquiry recommendations for improvement to WA cultural heritage law, but disappointingly refuses to publicly support Aboriginal groups’ calls on the State Government to allow them meaningful input into the development of the new law, let alone bringing it up to the standard recommended by the Inquiry.

“Rather than take up the opportunity to use its significant influence for the benefit of Aboriginal communities affected by its mining operation,  FMG has instead demonstrated that it will talk the talk, but won’t walk the walk.

“FMG’s position is disappointing, but in the shareholder support for our resolution we are encouraged that more investors are beginning to recognise inconsistencies between FMG’s rhetoric on one hand, and its actions on the other, in its dealings with Aboriginal communities. “

Our work