Kia Dowell is dedicated to repairing country by working with regulators to sustainably close and rehabilitate mine sites.
A proud Gija woman, Kia Dowell is dedicated to working towards a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Dowell will take the stage at AusIMM’s Life of Mine Conference, to be held in Brisbane from August 2–4.
The Life of Mine Conference addresses current and future challenges that impact the mining value chain, presenting leading examples of sustainability in mining and showcasing the industry’s latest innovations.
One of the seven experts who will be presenting keynotes at the conference, Dowell will share her experience working as chair of Gelganyem Limited.
Gelganyem exists to oversee and manage the Funds established to benefit future generations of Traditional Owners under the Argyle Participation Agreement on behalf of the Traditional Owners and plays a critical role in entering the obligations and commitments on the agreement are delivered.
The Argyle Participation Agreement concerns the Argyle diamond mine in WA, owned by Rio Tinto, which was in production for almost 40 years before it shut its doors in November 2020.
In September 2004, the Miriuwung, Gidja, Malgnin and Wularr Traditional Owners and Rio Tinto signed a participation agreement that recognises Traditional Owners as the landlords of the mining lease, establishing a long-term relationship between the parties.
“My family saw me as someone who could represent our collective voices and also ensure that any concerns or ideas are carried forward in a respectful way through our role as one of several groups who are custodians of that site,” Dowell told Australian Mining.
“I was first nominated to the board five years ago and, to my surprise, I was appointed as both a director and as chair on the same day.”
Having been chair of Gelganyem when Argyle commenced the prices towards and through closure, Dowell has first-hand experience with the life and closure of a mine. She counts the developing relationship between Gelganyem and Rio as one of the most challenging yet fulfilling moments she has had personally and professionally.
“One of the most empowering parts of being chair of Gelganyem Limited has been upholding our relationship with country and seeing how that is playing out as the rehabilitation of Argyle continues,” Dowell said.
While Dowell’s speech at the Life of Mine Conference will focus primarily on Argyle, she will discuss her experience working with key industry players to deliver successful mine closures in partnership.
“I really want my speech to be an invitation to the sector, the regulators and other Traditional Owner groups to both co-design and deliver really good mind closures,” Dowell said.
“Mine closures shouldn’t be thought of just at the end of a mine’s life, but as something that that is thought about from the very beginning.
“I also want to touch on what’s required when things do go pear-shaped, because it’s in those moments that your values and leadership are tested.”
Dowell said she was keen to get all aspects of the sector involved with the Life of Mine Conference.
“Historically speaking, there have not been many Tier 1 mine sites go all the way through to relinquishment,” she said.
“We’re really learning and building things as we go, so the Life of Mine Conference is a rare opportunity to get people together so they can learn from each other.”
Dowell has always known she would work to give back to country, even declaring as a child that her dream job would be to work as an environmental scientist for Greenpeace.
Her deep longing to contribute and care for country has led her to advocate for change in the way the resources sector approaches all phases of mining, right now age believes we have three opportunity to significantly improve the way we define and approach mine closure not as a means to an end but as the beginning of the next stage..
“We have a chance to change our approach to mine closure to something that continues to add value,” Dowell said.
“It’s not about focusing on one mine and asking how we can close that one better, but it’s about looking at the bigger picture.
“I hope we are starting to listen collectively to ideas and not approach them with the view that we’re just closing mines for the sake of closing mines.
“We don’t want to just tick boxes, we want to work to ensure each mine closure is the best it can be.”