Following the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) with the support of National Native Title Council (NNTC) and Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Alliance co-filing a shareholder resolution at the Fortescue Metals Group Limited AGM, shareholders demonstrated a clear message of support to improve Western Australian Cultural Heritage Protection Laws in Sydney on 9 November 2021.
The resolution called on Fortescue to back a pause in the bill’s development and for the state to enter talks with Aboriginal groups to come up with new rules together.
15.6% of shareholders voted in support of the resolution, which is equivalent to approximately 23.2% of the shares not held by Forrest entities, holding about 37% of the company.
In the mining and cultural heritage protection framework, the destruction of the Juukan Gorge brought into sharp focus the unacceptable social, reputational and business risks arising from a weak heritage protection regulatory framework and consequent de-facto industry self-regulation.
To mitigate these risks, mining activities need to be regulated by adequate legislative and policy standards.
“Any new legislation must as a minimum ensure Aboriginal people have meaningful involvement in and control over heritage decision making, in line with the internationally recognised principles of free, prior and informed consent, including relevant Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate under the Native Title Act” says Gundjitmara Djabwurrung man and NNTC CEO Jamie Lowe
“The legal framework for the protection of Aboriginal heritage in Western Australia and at the Federal level is completely inadequate.” he continues.
“Pilbara region mining companies including FMG have made billions on Aboriginal owned land, and for too long enjoyed the lax legislation in Cultural Heritage Protection.
Juukan Gorge is only one example of the continued devastation of Aboriginal Culture. However, we are encouraged to see the emergence of shareholders who want stronger heritage legislation for all Australians.”
Kado Muir, Ngalia cultural and community leader and Chairman of NNTC further states “Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) is increasingly becoming a key driver for investor expectations.
Companies and boards paying lip service, and ignoring the importance of Aboriginal cultural heritage protection do so at their own peril. As a consequence, they run the risk of becoming stranded assets, losing investor confidence and subsequent access to sustainable finance and capital.”
And the support of more than 23% of non-Forrest shareholders sends a strong vote in agreeance.
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