SPEECH TO THE WORLD 2023 MINING CONFERENCE, BRISBANE
Address to the 26th World Mining Congress, Brisbane
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Australia, and particularly beautiful Queensland!
It is an honour to be speaking to you all today on behalf of the Coalition, and from my home state of Queensland, rich in resources and with a strong history of mining.
I’d like to thank the World Mining Congress committee for inviting me here today, in particular Dr Hua Gao, Chair of the 26th Congress, and also Dr Larry Marshall, and Professor Marek Cała.
I’d also like to acknowledge my counterpart Madeleine King, Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, and Scott Stewart, Queensland State Minister for Resources.
Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the work that you all do for this great sector. Resources are the foundation of modern life and society.
From developments in the Bronze age, to the industrial revolution and the age of steam power, to the limitless potential of the future and yet undiscovered technologies, resources and minerals have and will remain crucial to the world’s prosperity and development.
IMPORTANCE OF THE RESOURCES INDUSTRY
The resources sector is not only the backbone of Australia, but the backbone of global development.
From sourcing secure, reliable and affordable energy sources, to transforming the manufacturing sector, building infrastructure and housing, and feeding nations with fertilisers, it is non-negotiable: resources are irreplaceable.
The availability and security of reliable energy sources continues to benefit the globe.
From supply shocks during COVID, or with the global gas shortages after Russia invaded Ukraine, it has become apparent that we must continue to source secure energy sources through the resources sector.
Further to this, countries like Australia are able to provide high-quality energy sources to developing nations, which helps decrease their reliance on poor energy sources like dung, wood or other fuels.
Ironically, Australia providing supply in the world thermal coal and gas market reduces world emissions, by pushing down prices and allowing developing nations to utilise cleaner energy sources.
This dramatically increases their living standards, and can allow countries to provide a quality of life enjoyed by many developed countries like Australia across the world.
There is also the human contribution of resources.
The resources sector in Australia is one of the most sought-after employers in the country. With incredibly well paid jobs, good working conditions and limitless opportunity, this industry makes a real difference to people’s lives.
The sector paid over $38 billion in wages in 2022, supporting over 1.1 million Australians across the country. It pays higher than the median wage, and offers increasingly flexible arrangements for the many workers employed.
Additionally, the sector has helped revitalise rural and regional communities.
Across the country, but particularly here in Queensland, regional towns are coming alive again, with workers able to live in the bush and still get a secure, well-paying job to support them and their families.
Everyone benefits in a mining town, with local butchers and restaurants gaining more customers, local schools increasing their student numbers, and local sporting teams getting support from mining companies
Resources companies deliver real results for regional communities, and invest into these places with a passion for the people.
NEXT OPPORTUNITY FOR THE RESOURCES SECTOR
Alongside the strength of the traditional resources sector, the emergence of critical minerals presents another opportunity for countries like Australia to benefit from.
Previous Coalition Governments recognised this opportunity, and I would like to thank the work of Keith Pitt and Matt Canavan, the last two Resources Ministers, for their foresight in this area.
We developed Australia’s first Critical Minerals Strategy in 2019, and updated it in 2022.
This provided the foundation of Australia’s critical minerals future, and alongside this strategy we developed a range of programs aimed at directly investing in the sector.
Most notably, in April 2022, Iluka Resources was awarded a $1.25 billion loan to develop Australia’s first integrated rare earths refinery at Eneabba (eenee-abba) in Western Australia.
However, we must continue to build on this legacy.
Critical minerals are incredibly important to our technological future.
They play important roles in defence, manufacturing, and future technologies.
Countries across the globe need to recognise this opportunity, and support investments that actively generate critical minerals projects.
This is not just limited to mineral production.
We must capitalise on the opportunity for downstream investment in processing and refineries, to secure the whole supply chain of these minerals.
This will actively defend against the future impacts of supply chain shocks by developing more than just ore mining in Australia.
The Minerals Council of Australia predicts that by 2030:
- ● Iron ore demand is expected to grow by 8 per cent.
- ● Metallurgical coal demand is expected to grow by 24 per cent.
- ● Seaborne thermal coal demand is expected to grow by 23.5 per cent.
- ● Aluminium demand is expected to grow by 45.5 per cent.
- ● Zinc demand is expected to grow by 12 per cent.
- ● Nickel demand is expected to grow by 67 per cent.
- ● Lithium demand is expected to grow by 368 per cent.
- And by 2050, copper demand will have doubled.
And these are just current estimates.
It is likely that these numbers will continue to increase as more nations turn towards developing their own manufacturing and processing sectors.
It is worth noting that the boom of the critical minerals sector will not replace the strength or success of traditional resources.
Commodities like coal, iron ore and gas will remain vital for decades into the future, and support the critical minerals sector through manufacturing and processing.
Steel will continue to be a vital resource – for if it is not made of steel, it is made in a factory made of steel.
With the critical minerals boom it will remain crucial that secure, affordable energy sources are sustained to support the increased energy demand from expanding the manufacturing and processing sectors to deal with critical minerals.
And Australia has the ability to continue to supply secure energy sources.
So, poised with this opportunity, and this clear demand for mineral production into the future, what can Australia do to be part of this?
HOW AUSTRALIA IS PART OF THIS CHANGE
Australia is one of the world’s strongest mining jurisdictions.
Our relationship with mining stretches well back into the 19th century.
So what can Australia offer to the world?
Australia tops the global ranking of identified resources of gold, nickel, uranium and zinc.
Australia is ranked second globally for identified reserves of cobalt, copper, lithium, tungsten and vanadium.
What an amazing opportunity Australia has to present itself as a minerals supplier for the world.
However, we have not yet grasped this opportunity.
Let’s take vanadium as an example.
We have vast resources of vanadium in Australia – most notably in North West Queensland.
Vanadium Redox Batteries are Australia’s opportunity to establish the full battery supply chain, from pit to battery and into our grid.
Unlike other grid batteries:
- ● Vanadium redox batteries can handle a range of climatic conditions from freezing to immense heat and not buckle under the pressure;
- ● They last for in excess of 20 years and are fully and easily recyclable;
- They can handle the surge of peak demands experienced in Australian summers and winters.
Importantly you only need vanadium for this technology – no other minerals.
Unfortunately, Australia produces no vanadium currently.
This is just one of the vital minerals that the world will need for future technologies and developments.
Putting aside vanadium, the vast array of minerals that Australia currently holds are confirmed to be needed for manufacturing, research and development in the future.
So why should investors choose Australia?
We have a strong history of secure, stable government and resources regulatory policy, providing a secure investment option for international companies.
We have a strong and willing mining workforce, and through the well-paid, long-term jobs the resources sector provides, can continue to provide a secure workforce for new investment opportunities.
We have stable and affordable energy sources, as this burgeoning sector will require vast amounts of energy for mining operations, and refining and processing requirements.
We have the capacity to expand into the processing and refining space, with land for growth and well connected export capacity.
Australia can provide an alternative to supply chains currently dominated by one or two countries, providing choice and more supply stability – as we have seen through COVID and the Russia Ukraine conflict, choice of supply is critical.
Australia’s resources sector has some of the best environmental standards in the world – we know how to properly manage environmental concerns, and deliver world class rehabilitation projects.
I cannot think of any other jurisdiction so naturally endowed with mineral deposits, so blessed with a strong history of mining, or so well positioned to lead the charge towards critical minerals that we all see is so clearly upon us.
NOT A GUARANTEED THING – POOR REGULATION RISKS FUTURE INVESTMENT
What is the next step for Australia to secure this critical minerals boom?
We are poised to take this opportunity with both hands, however there are a number of issues that must be addressed to achieve this.
First, duplication of regulatory barriers need to be lessened.
This does not mean environmental protections are reduced, but we must develop a plan to aid in streamlining approvals and reducing red and green tape to ensure that projects – particularly ones of national significance – are able to progress in a timely and cost-minimal manner.
With project timeframes for nickel or copper mines taking up to 20 years from initiation to first production, much of the demand forecasts for 2030 and beyond will never be filled – remember, 2030 is only seven years away.
That means that in the current environment, to support forecasted demand many of these minerals projects would have needed to commence a decade ago.
However, the key factor in this is over regulation.
If we are able to strike a balance between upholding environmental protections and delivering manageable project timeframes, we must address overburdening regulation.
Second is the rhetoric that surrounds the mining sector.
Despite the increase in anti-mining sentiment that has developed over the last few decades, it remains simply a very loud minority actively working against the sector.
However, there remains a risk that if this rhetoric is allowed to flourish unchecked, that it will spread misinformation about the sector that builds pressure on Government and industry, putting the future of mining at risk.
But misinformation is at the heart of this campaign.
The public do not fully understand how embedded mining is in their lives.
From the phones they use everyday, to their computers, to ‘reusable’ glass coffee cups, or the bricks in their house.
The fertilisers that help grow vegetables that they eat; or radioactive materials so critical to medical research.
It cannot be left to policy makers to be the ones leading the campaign in support of mining.
All of you here today – the sector, the companies, the industry groups – you are the ones who need to stand up and tell the world what vital work you do.
Because if you stay silent, the vacuum will be filled by these anti-mining voices, and it won’t just be coal or gas or oil that will be targeted, it will be the whole resources sector.
And we will all be worse off.
So this is the challenge that faces all of us today.
Given the urgency of bringing these projects online, there is no time to delay.
If we do, then Australia, and the world, will lose out on this investment and the benefits of this industry.
The world cannot afford for Australia to not be a developed critical minerals supplier.
Without Australian resources, it will be harder for the world to meet the skyrocketing demand for critical minerals, which will impact our global partners immensely.
FUTURE IS BRIGHT FOR MINING
So, the future is bright for the resources sector.
The opportunity is there – it is in reach, and now is the time to grasp it and capitalise on our critical minerals.
Mining has been, and will remain, crucial to modern life.
Our traditional resources will remain vital in the future, supplying secure, affordable energy, and supporting manufacturing and processing.
The critical minerals sector is not a replacement for traditional resources – nothing can replace the strength, demand and necessity of coal, iron and gas.
But we have the opportunity to capitalise on this new sector to run in conjunction with Australia’s existing resources industry.
For modern manufacturing, research and development, national security and global supply chain strength.
It is a very exciting time to be part of the resources sector.
Let us not dawdle any longer, grab this opportunity with both hands, and create a future that will provide the same prosperity that we have all enjoyed for our children, and our children’s children.
So let us take this next step together, and invest in the future of the world.