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Understanding Australia’s global leadership in mining

Aug 10, 2016

A report released today finds that traditional approaches by the Australian Government to collecting trade and investment data have generally missed a major shift in Australian mining from being largely domestic in focus to becoming a global industry. Australia is lagging behind its main competitor nation, Canada, not only in data collection but also in strategic use of economic diplomacy, including development assistance.

The report, Sharing the Benefits: enhancing Australia’s global leadership in the mining value chain, finds that during the past decade, Australian mining has grown well beyond Australia’s borders, powered by leading practice in knowledge and technology, and a reputation for quality governance.

Australian mining is now a formidable global enterprise operating in all of the world’s resources regions, and is world-leading and competitive across the value chain, from exploration, to financing and development, to mining and processing, and to mining equipment, technology and services.  In terms of exploration and mining activity by publicly-listed companies, Australia is number two in the world, with Canada the global leader.

The report’s authors, Ian Satchwell of The University of Western Australia and Jim Redden of The University of Adelaide attribute Australia’s global mining success to the world-class skills and technologies deployed by its explorers and miners, which have unearthed trillions of dollars of in-ground value in all of the globe’s resource rich regions.

“This raises the question of what’s needed to realise the latent value of Australian-discovered resources for the benefit of both host nations and company shareholders”, said Jim Redden. “There’s a strong case for the Australian government to work more closely with industry in deploying economic diplomacy and aid for trade to unlock this huge economic potential.”

The report examines current data collection and monitoring by the Australian Government of industry investment and trade globally, and the government’s economic diplomacy activities around mining industry interests. The report finds that, compared with Canada, the government’s monitoring of Australian mining investment overseas is inadequate and that as a consequence Australia’s economic diplomacy strategy is not well aligned with all of Australia’s global mining investment and trade interests.

“Australia needs to change its approach to collecting trade and investment data so as to better track what Australian companies are doing around the world,” said Ian Satchwell. “If we are not properly measuring Australia’s global economic interests, we can’t properly manage them.”

The report also examines the position of Australia as a globally leading nation in governance of mining, and the opportunities that this provides to support capacity-building in resource-rich developing countries.  Better governance not only improves the outcomes of mining for these nations and their communities, but also builds returns for companies and enhances the investment climate for Australia’s mining sector.  As such, the report recommends an increase in well targeted Australian aid to support these initiatives globally.

Finally, the report explores strategies that the Australian Government and State Governments, together with industry, can undertake in order to enhance the reputation and investment status for Australia’s mining sector wherever it operates.

The report is published by the Centre for Exploration Targeting, a joint venture of The University of Western Australia and Curtin University.