BHP has avoided a major shareholder resolution at their Annual General Meeting on Wednesday after a last-minute deal was struck with Traditional Owners on Tuesday.
The resolution, pushed by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), would have moved that all mining works with the potential to “disturb, destroy or desecrate” sacred Indigenous sites be paused.
On Tuesday BHP and the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance (FNHPA), a group of 20 Indigenous organisations and land councils formed in the wake of the Juukan Gorge disaster, said they had agreed upon a “path forward to enhance the influence and voice of Traditional Owners”. The FNHPA subsequently asked the ACCR to withdraw the resolution from the AGM agenda.
The deal sets principles around cultural heritage that reaffirm “free, prior and informed consent in agreement making”.
“The Principles also reaffirm a shared commitment to self-determination for Aboriginal peoples, their right to speak proudly and publicly about their culture and their heritage; and recognition that building a better understanding of Aboriginal cultural heritage in Australia is ongoing and together we can play an important role,” said a statement from BHP on Tuesday.
As part of the agreement, BHP has also committed to “cultural heritage keeping places … to better reflect Traditional Owners’ values, culture and pride”.
“Together, we aim to also make these places of knowledge, learning and celebration of the unique living cultures they are connected to, as well as places where artefacts can be respectfully stored and visited.”
The deal comes after the Juukan Gorge inquiry heard many Puutu Kunti Kurrama Pinikura (PKKP) cultural items were being stored in an unregulated shipping container by Rio Tinto, as well as some items being displayed in Rio Tinto offices—an area PKKP Traditional Owners don’t have access to.
FNHPA Co-Chair Kado Muir said he was confident the deal with BHP would improve cultural heritage protection nationally.
“We have been heartened by the constructive approach BHP have adopted to our discussions with them,” Muir said.
“Together we are determined to drive industry reform and legislative change that improves both agreement making and the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage which is of immense value to all Australians.”
By Hannah Cross