Australian Cultural Heritage Management (ACHM) is playing a pivotal role in ensuring mining projects deliver profitable outcomes while fulfilling their obligations under the various pieces of Aboriginal heritage legislation across Australia.
The nation’s leading heritage management firm specialises in managing the heritage requirements of mining projects and scores of other developments across Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria.
It sets the Australian benchmark for facilitating a consensus between miners, statutory authorities and indigenous groups ensuring projects meet their objectives while at the same investigating, protecting and preserving Aboriginal cultural heritage values.
ACHM Chief Executive Dr Neale Draper said over the course of literally hundreds of projects, the company had consistently demonstrated an ability to deliver outcomes that satisfied all parties.
“We would have the largest and most diverse permanent workforce in our line of business in the country and we have enormous depth of experience, particularly in senior staff and management,” Dr Draper said.
“Our consultants are recognised leaders in their fields and no other firm in the cultural heritage management sector possesses such a broad range of experience, qualifications and expertise gained from all around the world.”
Dr Draper said the company’s work for both groups and government regulatory departments also gave it an unparalleled understanding of the differing regulatory environments of each state and the perspective of Aboriginal stakeholder groups.
“Our experience working with miners and other developers, Aboriginal groups and government agencies means we understand the perspectives and motivations of each stakeholder, thereby uniquely positioning us to facilitate a consensus for moving forward.
“Few other cultural heritage management firms in Australia have the skills and experience in ensuring projects can progress without undue delay while demonstrating a commitment to respecting and preserving Aboriginal cultural heritage.
“While we may have over 100 projects in progress at any one time, we can put people on the ground anywhere within a very short period, which is becoming more and more important for mining projects that are extremely time pushed.”
ACHM currently employs approximately 50 full time and 40 casual staff including some of the country’s most qualified and experienced archaeologists, anthropologists and Geographic Information Systems analysts.
Executive Manager for Victoria Dr Shaun Canning said ACHM had a proven track record in delivering outcomes in projects ranging from exploration drilling surveys lasting just one or two days to greenfield open cut mine sites covering many thousands of hectares, and just about everything in between.
“You name it: from railways and railway infrastructure, power lines, water infrastructure, roads and highways and residential and industrial developments. We’ve managed the heritage requirements for them all, Dr Canning said.
“Many of these are complex, politically charged projects that require significant expertise and skill to negotiate acceptable solutions for all parties.”
ACHM’s project experience includes the Woodside Pluto Project and NWSJV gas processing plant extensions on the Pilbara Coast, as well as the Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metal Group iron ore mining and infrastructure development projects in the Pilbara.
The company was also involved in helping to chart a way forward for the Oxiana Prominent Hill Mine, Illuka mineral sands projects and numerous wind power projects in Victoria and South Australia.
ACHM has managed the cultural heritage management requirements for a wide range of major infrastructure projects such as the Burrup Service Corridors in Western Australia, water supply extensions in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and regional South Australia and Victoria, regional road and rail extensions in several states, water and electricity supply infrastructure in South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria.
Dr Canning said ACHM was often “right at the nexus between the developer, the indigenous stakeholders and government approval authorities and our job is to manage the relationship between all of those parties.
“It’s definitely about relationship management and ensuring everyone gets what they want, which quite often involves carefully balancing opposing and competing demands, he said.
Our clients know they will get the best possible job in any given circumstance and the results of our work speak for themselves. We navigate a cost-effective way through the range of issues which may present themselves to see our clients through to the other end of the process.
We are not just archaeologists or anthropologists. Senior managers in particular spend a large proportion of their time in the office negotiating a way through complex scenarios in a highly regulated and often emotive environment”.
“We are essentially problem solvers. People come to us with issue they need us to find a solution for and that’s what we do. In general most of our clients want a firm who can get in there and get the job done safely and efficiently, without compromising on quality or the often delicate relationships with the range of project stakeholders.”
Dr Canning said the priority that ACHM afforded to occupational health and safety matters also reflected its importance to the company and its clients.
“We understand how critical this issue is to our clients and so we maintain a comprehensive set of OH&S policies and procedures. ACHM also strictly complies with all of the safety and environment policies of our clients and employs a ‘zero harm’ perspective on all safety and environment matters”.
Mining industry executive Warren Fish has worked closely with ACHM over several years, first in his role in senior management at Woodside and more recently at Citic Pacific Mining, where he is Executive Director of Health, Safety, Environment and Corporate Logistics.
Mr Fish said the projects with which he had worked with ACHM ranged from contentious large scale rock art relocation projects to standard land access projects.
“I have always enjoyed working with ACHM – they have always understood what our requirements are and always provided us with really good service,” Mr Fish said.
“I’ve never had a problem with them missing deadlines; they’re in and out very quickly and efficiently and they have always understood what our needs are.”
Mr Fish said one of the reasons why he continued to work with ACHM was it had consistently demonstrated a capacity for pragmatism.
“Unfortunately in the heritage management sector there is a lot of over-servicing but we were able to circumvent that working with ACHM and got good value for money,” he said.
They have always provided us with innovative ways of using data and have always shown they understand the regulatory framework in which we operate.
They also understand that it’s the proponent who carries the regulatory risk, not the consultant. Because of that, they offer clear and concise advice for you to consider, rather than trying to force it down your throat.”
On top of its work with some Australia’s leading miners, ACHM consultants have completed scores of commissions for government departments, including a review of native title anthropology reports and evidence for the Victorian Department of Justice and the NSW Crown Solicitor’s Office, heritage expert reports to the Federal Court and several State jurisdictions, a review of Aboriginal site recording standards and regional heritage management plan studies for the Western Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs, and a review of the cultural heritage management standards employed by Rio Tinto Exploration.
ACHM has also undertaken native title research for a number of indigenous groups, including the Kokatha in central South Australia, the Kaurna of the Adelaide region, the Martidja Banyjima in the eastern Pilbara and the Ngadju and Bullenbuck people’s in Western Australia.
For the past five years, ACHM has been working with Karijini Developments Pty Ltd, which represents one of the major native title claimant groups in the east Pilbara of Western Australia.
Karijini Developments Director Rick Callaghan said over the course of a number of projects, ACHM’s archaeologists and anthropologists had proven to be highly skilled professionals and effective communicators when working with the traditional owners of the east Pilbara.
“We have always found ACHM to be very professional: what you see is what you get, which is obviously very helpful when dealing with a complex set of issues, especially when you are dealing with someone’s cultural rights,” Mr Callaghan said.
These scenarios involve very complex emotional issues and if you are asking a company to do the archaeology and anthropology on behalf of native title holders they have to get it right because you only get one bite of the cherry.
Everything is underpinned by an ability to communicate with the traditional owners.”
ACHM has grown from a small, 5 person operation 11 years ago to be the largest specialist cultural heritage management firm in Australia. That size and stability ensures ACHM always has cutting edge equipment and the best expert staff available for any situation.
Operations Executive Manager David Mott said miners came to ACHM because they knew they could engage us to undertake any of the services necessary for any cultural heritage management requirement.
“We employ the services of some of Australia’s best archaeologists, anthropologists, GIS analysts and, where needed, we have access to geomorphologists, documentary film makers, ecologists and other relevant experts,” Mott said.
ACHM’s leading role in cultural heritage management is also underpinned by ensuring the company remains at the forefront of technological innovation, staff excellence and work place compliance.
“We continue to invest heavily in the latest GPS equipment each year to ensure we always provide our clients with the best possible spatial solutions. This equipment and staff training means we can produce highly accurate data for our clients, which is critical when you are dealing with spatially challenging projects,” Mott said.
“We are a GIS-based company so we can deal with spatial data from virtually any source, providing that data back to our clients in any GIS format they choose”.
“It’s our view that if we remain objective and obtain very precise data and understandings of the heritage landscape in which we are operating there is no situation where a mutually agreed outcome cannot be found.”
ACHM’s Executive Manager of Information Technology, Andrew Maland says “GIS enables us to capture these cultural assets in time and space with a high degree of precision in industrial or mining sites that often have significant space limitations. Having highly accurate spatial data gives us the ability to often avoid impact to sites where data of lesser quality may suggest otherwise. This may save our clients tens of thousands of dollars and many months in the approvals pipeline.”
“Our GIS experts map, manage and analyse site data with sub-metre accuracy, which provides utmost certainty for projects which depend on accuracy and precision.”
“We have always been at the forefront of the adoption of new technology because we understand that mining companies and other developers increasingly need to maximise the accuracy of heritage data to provide greater certainty when complying with heritage requirements while at the same time providing the greatest degree of freedom and usability for their most valuable asset – land.”
Another key philosophy which underpinned the company’s continued success was ACHM’s approach to staff selection.
“We choose our staff very carefully, not just to find the people with the right qualifications and experience but also to ensure they are very robust in their ability to undertake quite difficult field campaigns which can involve quite complex socio-political situations. We hand select staff not just for their skills and experience but also for their capacity to navigate their way through these situations,” said Mott.
ACHM has been involved in some of Western Australia’s most significant natural gas and associated infrastructure projects over the past decade in its capacity as heritage management contractor for Woodside.
Since 2001, ACHM has managed heritage surveys, reports for government approvals, site protection arrangements, salvage and mitigation programs, and heritage management plans and audits for of Woodside’s major onshore projects in Western Australia.
These include North West Shelf Project’s second trunkline and production trains four and five, Woodside’s Pluto LNG Project and the Browse LNG Development in the Kimberley.
ACHM has been a proud contributor to two Golden Gecko awards for excellence in environmental practice won by Woodside during the last ten years in relation to these projects.
“Throughout our on-going partnership with Woodside, we have shared their determination to continually achieve or exceed best-practice processes and outcomes,” ACHM Chief Executive Dr Neale Draper said.
“Along the way, we have accumulated unparalleled experience in managing every aspect of heritage assessment and protection for major infrastructure projects.”
Dr Draper said this included the timely delivery of accurate heritage GIS data to front end engineering and design teams so that they could design infrastructure footprints which minimise heritage impacts.
He said it also included formulating innovative cultural heritage management plans and conducting extensive cultural heritage audits.
“These plans and audits help to ensure that heritage sites and values are respected and protected throughout the life of major projects, and that new projects benefit from high-quality, pre-existing heritage data and management regimes,” Dr Draper said.
Fortescue Metals Group
Some of Australia’s most significant iron ore mining projects have also been receiving detailed and comprehensive advice on cultural heritage management from ACHM.
The Fortescue Metals Group, for example, has been relying on ACHM’s cultural heritage management services for many of its iron ore projects in the Pilbara region.
ACHM Executive Manager Operations David Mott said the company had been involved with FMG’s Pilbara iron ore projects in two ways – both as a consultant and also through direct engagement by regional Aboriginal native title clients.
“In both cases, ACHM is dedicated to providing expert heritage management services which are best-practice, cost-effective and on time,” Mott said.
“This ranges from heritage surveys for exploration work and development approvals, to construction-phase salvage and mitigation work with native title claimants and other Aboriginal groups, to long-term heritage management planning and maintenance for operations phases.”
Mott said ACHM’s heritage management services fully integrated archaeology, anthropology, GIS mapping and even video and photographic documentation to the highest professional standards.
“This means corporate heritage managers like FMG can rely upon us to meet all of their heritage management needs for each specific project phase, while achieving the highest standards for cultural heritage management,” he said.
“This integrated approach, and ACHM’s careful attention to detail, along with close attention to our client and Aboriginal stakeholder needs and aspirations, means that risks are minimised, and productive outcomes are maximised.”
Donald Mineral Sands
The reputation that ACHM has earned for consistently delivering results for key mining projects has seen it entrusted with the task of carrying out cultural heritage management assessments for one of the world’s largest undeveloped zircon project.
Astron Limited, through its subsidiary, Donald Mineral Sands, aims to extract up to 7.5 million tonnes a year by mining mineral sands in the Donald region, producing up to 500,000 tonnes of heavy metal concentrate for export to China.
ACHM has been engaged to undertake cultural heritage management assessments of the mining tenements, and deliver the necessary statutory cultural heritage approvals to enable the mine to proceed.
Executive Manager for Victoria Dr Shaun Canning said the introduction of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 in Victoria during the planning phase of the Donald Mineral Sands Project presented numerous challenges for the venture.
DMS Environment Manager Loretta Fallaw said given the “scope and scale of this project, and the complexity of the requirements under the relatively new Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act, we need to ensure that our risk is absolutely minimal in this vital area.”
“We engaged ACHM to deliver our statutory approvals based on their reputation and experience in both Victoria and the mining industry in general,” Ms Fallaw said.
Dr Canning said while Victoria’s mining industry was not on the same scale of that of Queensland or Western Australia, the state’s legal requirements for cultural heritage management were highly complex and technically demanding. ACHM have also assisted other miners in Victoria, including Beadell Resources and Jabiru Metals on their heritage compliance within the larger Environmental Effects Statements process.
“ACHM has the proven capacity to deliver the necessary statutory approvals in this challenging environment whilst ensuring safety, stakeholder relationships and our clients’ reputation remain paramount to our work” Dr Canning said.