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BHP boosts Indigenous business sector with two new Pilbara hubs

David Prestipino -

BHP has detailed new plans to boost Indigenous opportunities in the Pilbara as it continues concerted efforts to increase and transform engagement with traditional owner businesses.

Head of Global Indigenous Procurement Chris Cowan detailed the company's new approach at the Pilbara Summit in Karratha on Wednesday.

"This is not just about us increasing spend, but making sure the contracts we award are simplified, longer term and more sustainable; improving the experience working with us," he said.

BHP's WA iron ore division increased its direct spend last year by 70 per cent with nearly 100 Indigenous businesses, and is on track to achieve its target of $300 million this year.

"What makes me proud though is the examples where we are demonstrating that we can work differently for a better outcome," Mr Cowan said.

"For example, in the last 10 months we've awarded $100 million in long-term rehabilitation contracts.

"These were Traditional Owner-only sourcing activities, and guaranteed an outcome of Banjima and Nyiyaparli businesses working on their country."

Mr Cowan said long-term contracts with its partners meant they could employ more Indigenous people, invest more and evolve their businesses to become more competitive and resilient.

"When I talk to businesses about whether these longer-term opportunities really make a difference, the answer is clear," he said.

"Previously the focus was just on being able to do the work; now we have so many examples where our Indigenous contracting partners have used their opportunities with us to help other new businesses buy equipment or invest in other ways to participate in the mining industry."

Beyond the Indigenous business lanscape, Mr Cowan said procurement more broadly was vital to BHP's success and sustaining jobs in the communities it operates.

Last year the company spent almost $500m with Pilbara businesses both directly and through its Local Buying Program, a strategic partnership with C-Res.

Mr Cowan also used the conference to announce the launch of Trading Tracks, a new Indigenous business support program funded via the LBP.

"This program isn't just for businesses working for us, it's run independently and aimed more broadly at providing the support needed across the Pilbara," he said.

"It is one of the things we're doing to support capability development of the Indigenous business sector."

Trading Tracks will see two regional hubs in Port Hedland and Newman provide any size organisation training and support services that help them engage and secure contracts with other companies, from developing business plans to registering for ABNs.

Last year BHP spent 20 per cent of its Pilbara expenditure on more than 240 suppliers via the program, now in its 10th year.

Indigenous Management Group, led by Judd Harris, will run the three-year pilot program.

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