Big changes are underway in Yandeyarra, a remote Aboriginal community located about 30 minutes from our Wodgina lithium operation, with a team of MinRes employees recently rolling up their sleeves to take part in a busy bee in an effort to open a grocery store.
Once a thriving home to more than 300 people, Yandeyarra’s population has been declining rapidly over the years. Today, less than 50 people live in the community.
The loss of essential services in Yandeyarra – like a grocery store and petrol station – is a key reason people have left. Without these services, residents must embark on a three-hour round trip just to get essential food items and fuel in Port Hedland.
That’s where the team at MinRes comes in.
Members of the MinRes Communities and Heritage team work closely with the Kariyarra people, who are the Traditional Owners of the land Wodgina is located on, to ensure their cultural heritage is protected and managed during the life of our operations.
When our team learnt that local residents were trying to get the grocery store back up and running in Yandeyarra, they were determined to help.
MinRes Manager of Aboriginal Business Development, Ash Carey said the first step involved working with the community’s residents on a business case to re-stablish the grocery store. This was presented to the traditional owner trust to obtain seed funding.
“We drew on the professional skills and knowledge of people in the MinRes team to help develop a really robust business plan,” said Ash.
“Once the funding was secured, we turned our focus to the big job ahead – embarking on a multi-stage renovation program to bring the run-down store back to life.
Image: The grocery store in Yandeyarra, before the busy bee commenced.
The community’s only grocery store closed in 2017 and the building has fallen into disrepair over the years. This meant Emma Coppin, the local entrepreneur chosen to get the business back up and going, needed to do a significant amount of work both inside and outside the store before she could even stock it with grocery items.
Image: Emma, the owner of the new grocery store, during the busy bee.
“To help, we pulled together a team of people from MinRes, who partnered with a team of Yandeyarra locals, to take part in a series of busy bees. Inside the store, they helped clear out the old equipment and rubbish,” said Ash.
“Outside the store they got to work removing the overgrown bushes, washed down walls and pathways and installed a new irrigation system ready for roll-on turf.”
Image: The grocery store in Yandeyarra, after the first busy bee.
Yandeyarra Community Coordinator, Lena Mackey identified the closure of the local store as the event which had the greatest negative impact on the community.
“The Yandeyarra Store was a central hub and when it closed, the community suffered. There has been a lack of unity ever since. It has meant the community has had to travel to Port Hedland to shop for groceries, which has meant people have moved away and the health of the remaining community has suffered,” said Lena.
“With MinRes’ support, we hope that the rebuild and reopening of the shop and maintenance on the community will entice people to move back to Yandeyarra and have pride in the community once again.”
In the next few weeks, the MinRes team will return to Yandeyarra for another busy bee and help with the final jobs that need to be done to get the store up and running – this includes painting, maintenance, installing fridges and other catering equipment, landscaping and importantly, stocking the shelves with food.
It’s expected that the grocery store will open by the end of December.
In addition to providing a small grant to support the store start-up, MinRes will continue to support Emma by providing business mentoring and free access to logistics services provided to our Wodgina camps.
“In regional areas like the Pilbara, high freight costs mean that people can pay substantially more than people in Perth for basic food items,” said Ash.
“Food and supplies for the store will travel from Perth to Wodgina via our supply chain. This will provide Emma with a significant cost reduction, helping to ensure that residents can purchase their grocery items in Yandeyarra at competitive rates.”
MinRes is also supporting the community to locate and procure a drop-in fuel dispensing facility, which is planned to be up and running by the end of the year.