BHP will establish a $50 million Vital Resources Fund (VRF) to help support regional Australian communities in its areas of operation, including the Upper Hunter, which are facing the significant challenge of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The establishment of the VRF follows the mining giant's commitment to deliver $100 million into small, local and indigenous businesses by accelerating payments and reducing terms to seven days (from 30 days); and to employ a further 1500 people to assist its sites.
"BHP stands with the regional communities we operate in," BHP CEO Mike Henry said.
"With those communities facing significant challenges, we are stepping up in establishing the Vital Resources Fund, which will provide support in a range of areas such as health services and resilience building during this difficult time.
"We know COVID-19 will require a significant collective response from governments, businesses, communities and individuals across Australia.
"We are determined to play our part as we work through this challenge together."
Spending will be focused on the regions surrounding BHP's Australian operations, including the Bowen Basin in Central Queensland, the Hunter Valley, Roxby Downs and the Upper Spencer Gulf in South Australia, and the Pilbara and Goldfields regions in Western Australia.
"We're setting up the Vital Resources Fund so that regional communities know they have our support to rise to the extraordinary challenges they are now facing," said Asset president for Muswellbrook's Mt Arthur Coal Elsabe Muller.
"We want them to know that we are here to lend a hand when they need it most.
"All of the steps we're taking - setting up this fund, announcing more jobs, making it quicker and easier for our suppliers to get paid by BHP - are to help keep the Hunter Valley on its feet while we deal with the challenges that coronavirus has brought upon us all.
"No one knows how long this pandemic is going to last.
"But, we want the communities we're a part of to know that we'll be with them every step of the way.
"Mt Arthur Coal will reach out to local organisations, groups and providers in the Upper Hunter this week to ensure they are aware of the fund and the opportunity it presents."
Anticipated areas of support include:
- Local and regional health networks for critical infrastructure, services and workforces;
- Essential community services that keep regions strong;
- Community mental health and resilience;
- Social partners and community leaders to support rural and remote indigenous communities; and
- Over the longer term, working with governments at all levels to increase resources and training available to jobseekers.