Time to bust myths on mining’s impact, raise awareness about benefits – Ian Gould, former Rio Tinto Australia MD – by Christopher Russell (Adelaide Now – April 8, 2013)


THE public too often views the mining industry as a necessary evil rather than the valuable mainstay of the community it actually is, one of South Australia’s leading businessmen says.

UniSA chancellor and former Rio Tinto Australia managing director Ian Gould said most people realised the resources sector generated a lot of Australia’s wealth.

“But many do not like or understand the industry,” he said. “They just tolerate it; and some of that is in the light of it being a necessary evil.

“Why would this be? Big, foreign, powerful, insensitive, low-tech, 12-hour shifts – sounds terrible. A major cause of environmental degradation, contests over land use with indigenous, conservation, agricultural and grazing interests.

“It doesn’t pay its fair share of taxes, it’s a small employer of Australians but its high salaries and its forcing the exchange rate higher are making other industries uncompetitive. “It undertakes very little training of Australians – instead using 457 visas.”

The time had come to bust these myths, Dr Gould told a forum hosted last week by the SA Minerals and Petroleum Expert Group.

Dr Gould chairs the group, a committee of private-sector leaders which advises the State Government.

The reality of mining was quite different but there were elements of truth in the popular misperceptions.

“The industry does need to improve its performance,” he said.

It should start with building awareness of the flow-on benefits – how thousands of people worked in support services but were not counted as mine workers in job statistics.

There were plenty of facts to put on the table, including:

LOCAL mining technology was world-leading and a major exporter.

OFTEN small and medium enterprises were involved – winning $70 billion a year in contracts.

THE industry is the largest trainer, employer and non-government funder for indigenous communities.

MINING benefits regional economies – with higher growth, higher wages and higher educational achievements.

THE industry employs 11,000 apprentices and trainees and is the lead employer of environmental scientists.

IT pays about $20 billion a year in company tax and royalties – a figure that will increase because of higher state royalties and the federal Minerals Resource Rent Tax.

Premier Jay Weatherill told the forum SA could lead the world in developing an industry which was environmentally sensitive, well paid, safe and technologically advanced.

“What if this is the jurisdiction in the world that actually has understood and got it right,” he said. “What if SA is the place in the world which has unlocked the key to sustainably developing these resources and is going to be the next resources titan in the world.

“I think it’s a question of us choosing that future because we have the natural resources, we have the human resources and we can draw on a rich history of achievement.”

For the original version, click here: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/business/sa-business-journal/time-to-bust-myths-on-minings-impact-raise-awareness-about-benefits-ian-gould-former-rio-tinto-australia-md/story-e6fredel-1226615141267