Speech to AMEC awards night, Perth
Before I begin, I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on here in Perth, the Whadjuk Nyoongar people, and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.
I extend that respect to all First Nations peoples present today.
Thank you to Warren Pearce (Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive) and board members for inviting me here tonight as you celebrate your members’ contributions to mineral exploration and the mining industry.
I would also like to acknowledge Bill Johnston MLA, the Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum; Energy; Corrective Services; Industrial Relations. I am sure many of you know how lucky you are to have Minister Johnston in this role.
One of the first announcements by the new Federal Government was a commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and implementing of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, and I want to congratulate AMEC for supporting this commitment in their latest Policy Platform.
I’ve spoken at length in recent months about the need for strong and ongoing partnerships with First Nations peoples in the context of the sector’s health and sustainability.
It’s an issue that’s extremely important to me and to the Government.
I encourage all of you here tonight to continue to build genuine partnerships with Aboriginal people and to engage with the campaign for a Voice to Parliament. I really hope everybody in this room will throw their support behind what is an important moment in Australian history.
We all know how much mining has contributed to Australia’s economic development.
That contribution is usually measured in terms of ounces, tonnages or export income.
But this sector is also about the people and characters.
Prospectors and geologists like Charles Rasp, Paddy Hannan and Harry Woodward, who pioneered the rich mineral deposits of Broken Hill, Kalgoorlie and the Pilbara.
Mine managers and industrialists like Julius Kruttschnitt and Essington Lewis steered the companies like BHP, CRA (Conzinc Riotinto of Australia) and Mount Isa Mining that grew into global mining giants.
Politicians like Sir Charles Court stood up and championed new mine developments here in WA when there was apathy or ignorance about the extent of the wealth beneath our feet.
These individuals – and you, their successors – have created a sector that is crucial for the nation’s economy and prosperity.
And increasingly it is the risk takers and visionaries of this industry that are helping this nation make the leap into a cleaner future.
Here’s a thought – those hardy souls running drill rigs on some of the most inhospitable country we have might be on the frontline of fighting climate change.
After all, they’re out there searching under the ground beneath us, discovering the minerals we need to build batteries and wind farms and computer chips we need for net zero.
Would it be too much to call a driller a modern-day climate warrior?
Probably. But why not? It will be up to explorers like those drill crews to find the prospective deposits of minerals that the world demands and needs to decarbonise the global economy over the coming decades.
The world will not reach net zero without the resources sector of this nation, and there is no resources sector without mining and exploration.
Over 270,000 people are now employed in the resources sector Australia-wide.
In this state I am happy to say the resources sector is closing fast on the public sector as the largest employer.
The Reserve Bank of Australia's latest economic snapshot showed mining’s share of national GDP was 14.6 per cent.
Total export earnings are forecast to reach $450 billion dollars in the next financial year.
Iron ore exports are also projected to increase, reaching 937 million tonnes between the 2023-2024 financial year.
I take great pride in reminding my colleagues in the East about Western Australia’s contribution to these astonishing numbers.
I do like to remind them of how much of their departmental budgets are funded by WA resources.
Hospitals, schools, and defence equipment – all funded in part by resource projects kick started by people in this room.
WA’s mining, oil and gas, energy and contractor industries posted recorded sales of $231 billion dollars in the past financial year.
Mineral production in the Northern Territory was valued at $4.2 billion between the 2022 and 2021 financial year.
Importantly, mineral exploration activity was up 34 per cent in the last financial year, led by gold and copper activity.
The Top End’s geological potential is vast.
This was underlined when the Australian Government’s Exploring for the Future program, in partnership with MinEx CRC’s National Drilling Initiative, released new data in April.
It confirmed the East Tennant and South Nicholson Basin regions as exciting new frontiers for explorers.
This Australian Government-funded initiative is just one element of our commitment to growing the resources sector and building our processing and value-adding capabilities.
Focus on achieving net zero
All of you here tonight know, action is needed to prevent global temperatures from rising to the point where climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible.
Cutting emissions by 43 per cent by the end of this decade and reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious goal, but it is achievable.
As I mentioned earlier, the technologies to mitigate the effects of climate change and decarbonise the global economy all require minerals.
Without the resources sector, there is no transition to net zero.
Iron ore and bauxite are vital inputs for the steel and aluminium needed to build electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed for a decarbonised global economy.
Nickel is a key input to electric vehicles, with most of it coming from Western Australia.
When I was in Japan last month industry leaders all told me how much they wanted Australia’s critical minerals to reduce their emissions.
Lithium, rutile, and rare earths will be especially important in enabling low-carbon energy generation, zero-emission transport and digital systems.
The future of exploration
In terms of its mineral resources, Australia is truly the lucky country – and there’s enormous potential for further discoveries.
Well-established mining regions cover just 20 per cent of Australia.
The remaining 80 per cent is largely under-explored.
That means companies are sending more geologists and drill teams than ever into the field.
In the September quarter 2022, total exploration expenditure amounted to $1.05 billion - 8.7 per cent higher compared with the same period 12 months ago.
Junior explorers are in the vanguard of green-fields exploration. And as I said, on the front line of efforts to get to net zero.
This Government understands the importance of green-fields exploration and the need to support this activity so that we can find more of these critical minerals to build the tech we need to reduce emissions.
The Australian Government’s $225 million dollar Exploring for the Future Program, led by Geoscience Australia, is helping gauge the potential of our under-explored regions and providing invaluable information to explorers.
In addition, the Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive is providing up to $25 million dollars of tax credits each year to incentivise investment in Australian explorers.
I like to think that Geoscience Australia one of the most trusted intuitions in Australia. It is certainly one of the most important.
The pre-competitive data Geoscience Australia provides is invaluable and establishes future opportunity to make productive use of what this continent is made of.
For instance, the Geoscience Australia Salt Lake Study of 2013 Paved the way for the development of potash projects, and the recent identification of salt caverns that can effectively and economically store hydrogen is an important step forward in the challenge to make hydrogen storage and transport affordable.
I also acknowledge the remarkable work of the Geological Survey of WA that is the true pathfinder for resources development in this state.
Since 1888, the GSWA has collected and collated information of geology covering a surface area of over 2.6 million square kilometres with a geological history spanning 4 billion years. That is over 130 years of investigating what Western Australia is made of. The data collected and stored by GSWA is a critical national asset.
The eons of geological time gifted Australia with abundant mineral resources.
Our explorers, innovators and risk-takers have helped us leverage these assets to the great benefit of all Australians.
As we transition to cleaner energy technologies and a decarbonised economy, demand for our minerals will increase substantially.
At the same time, we need to reduce emissions at home.
I thank you for taking those risks and doing the work to generate so much of this nation’s wealth and to find and mine the minerals we need for net zero.
And I encourage you to keep telling your stories so more Australians understand your role in this changing economy.
Let’s let people over East know how drillers and geologists on remote sites, in sometimes tough conditions, are playing a key in combating climate change.
I understand the risks and difficulties of extracting and refining our valuable resources and promise to work with you and support your efforts to build a pipeline of projects that create new jobs and diversify our economy.
Together we will unlock our nation’s potential and build that inclusive, sustainable future.
Thank you and enjoy the evening.