Global Policy Forum

Lacking Commitment for Indigenous Peoples' Rights in Australian Mining Industry


Australian mining industries lack commitment to indigenous peoples’ rights reports Oxfam Australia, a non-governmental aid and development organization. Indigenous peoples’ rights, including a right to free, prior and informed consent for mining on their land, are enshrined in international human rights’ treaties. Despite this, less than 25% of the 53 extractive industry companies included in the study have a public commitment to these rights. The report written in cooperation with Caer, an Australian non-profit corporate analysis organization, assesses three central themes of the companies’ actions: strategy and responsibility, engagement and consent, and reporting and dialogue.

May 2013 | Caer & Oxfam Australia

The Right to Decide: Company Commitments and Community Consent

Executive summary

This report examines the publicly stated positions of Australian mining companies, and some Australian oil and gas companies, in relation to the rights of indigenous peoples to participate in decision-making that affects them, their land and their natural resources. In particular we assess whether companies recognise the right of indigenous peoples to give or deny their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for mining projects on their land.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) promotes the right of indigenous peoples to give or deny their FPIC for projects that affect them, their land and their natural resources. FPIC is both a right in itself, and can help protect other human rights including rights to property, culture, religion, livelihood, health and physical wellbeing. Companies have the responsibility to respect all internationally recognised human rights, including the right of indigenous peoples to FPIC.

Indigenous peoples’ rights, and their right to FPIC, are a critical issue for the Australian mining industry. Australian companies are not only trying to access minerals on indigenous peoples’ land here in Australia but are also increasingly venturing overseas to do the same. The Australian mining sector — like the global mining sector — is facing growing calls from indigenous peoples to respect their right to land and their right to determine what happens on it.

Companies face potential legal, reputational and financial risks if they attempt to operate without the consent of the indigenous peoples whose land is at issue. Despite this, very few Australian companies respect the right of indigenous peoples to give or deny their FPIC for projects on their land. In fact, few companies make any public commitment to respect either human rights or indigenous peoples’ rights.

Christina Hill, Julia Leske and Serena Lillywhite (2013): The Right to Decide: Company Commitments and Community Consent. Caer and Oxfam Australia, Belconnen/Carlton.


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