Most Australians appreciate that our wealth of mineral resources supported our economy during the global recession, but others believe this industry is damaging our country.Sifting Soil

According to a report released this week,  Advantage Australia: resource governance and innovation for the Asian Century, it is time for Australia to re-think how it manages its mineral resources to deliver long-term benefit in the decades to come.

A national minerals strategy would deliver a coherent and responsible approach to our mineral resources and would ensure that they are used wisely to advantage the whole nation.

The findings are the result of a three-year collaboration between The University of Queensland, University of Technology Sydney, CSIRO, Curtin University, CQ University and the Australian National University.

Dr Damien Guirco, research director of the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures says the current state of play in Australia is inadequate.

“The minerals industry has always operated in an evolving global landscape, but it’s becoming clear that social and environmental factors will become more important to head off future vulnerability,” Dr Giurco says.

“A national strategy would remove the complexities of differing regulations across states and territories and shift the focus towards maximising long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for communities, regions and the nation.”

Anna Littleboy, leader of CSIRO’s mineral futures research, says that the industry is working in an increasingly difficult environment.

“In many ways our economy has benefitted from recent high commodity prices, but the global competitiveness of Australia’s minerals industry is under pressure because of declining ore grades, declining productivity and limited ability to access labour and capital,” she says.

“New practices such as automation are being introduced and we need to understand both short and long term impacts.

“Likewise, as pressure mounts on precious environmental resources such as water and land, long-term sustainable practices are become ever more important. These are issues facing the nation; they are not isolated to particular states or mining operations.”

The report recommends the industry implement ethical and responsible supply chains; collect and provide  data on economic, social and environmental impacts; respond to environmental and social pressure with transformational technologies such as renewable energy; grow Australia’s high value skills to improve workforce stability; facilitate investment and regulatory reform; and measure the industry’s performance on a national scale.

This research was undertaken through the Mineral Futures Collaboration Cluster.

Media enquiries: Liz Greenbank, Communication Manager, CSIRO Minerals Down Under Flagship

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