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Indigenous trainees give Ellendale diamond mine a second life

David Prestipino -

More than a dozen Indigenous workers from across the Kimberley have gained apprenticeships as part of the multi-million dollar rehabilitation of an abandoned diamond mine in the Kimberley.

Aboriginal company Buru Rehab secured the massive WA government contract in July for rehabilitation earthworks at the failed Ellendale diamond mine, 140km east of Derby, which has been abandoned since 2015 after Kimberley Diamond Company entered liquidation.

The contract for earthworks at Ellendale required the successful tenderer to develop and run an Indigenous training program for local Aboriginal people.

Eleven Indigenous participants of the Ellendale Bunuba Trainee Program have since received a combined 21 National Certificates of Attainment for a range of heavy vehicle skills.

The certificates cover the safe operation of equipment such as articulated haul trucks, bulldozers, front-end loaders and excavators.

Buru Rehab also partnered with local mechanical service providers to employ three Indigenous heavy diesel fitter apprentices.

The training program and new heavy diesel fitter initiative have opened several employment pathways for apprentices after training from local Indigenous mentors.

Mining for internationally-acclaimed Fancy Yellow diamonds occurred at the site over the course of its life, with its rehabilitation funded by the Cook government through its Mine Rehabilitation Fund.

Ellendale is now set for a second life, with Buru Rehab working towards making the site safe for incoming tenement holders and others who may need to access it.

Mines and Petroleum Minister David Michael congratulated the successful trainees and praised Buru Rehab for its job at the Ellendale mine.

"Initiatives like the Ellendale Bunuba Trainee Program provide excellent employment outcomes for local communities," he said.

"We remain focused on mine rehabilitation and are committed to building a sustainable mining sector that balances economic opportunity with robust environmental protection."

Kimberley MLA Divina D'Anna said the program was a win-win for the new Indigenous trainees and the environment.

"Training that leads to genuine skills and recognised qualifications means ongoing job opportunities ... and ultimately economic empowerment for local Indigenous communities," she said.

A range of stakeholders including Aboriginal interests, local government, tenement holders and pastoralists were consulted before rehabilitation works began, with Buru Rehab set to complete earthworks over the next three dry seasons.

The current phase of the project is addressing several areas across the site with erosion, following works in 2022 to remove obsolete infrastructure and equipment, with waste materials sent for recycling or disposal at licensed facilities.

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