Western Australia mines and petroleum minister Bill Johnston has a lot on his plate as he continues to drive reform and sustainability. The stakes are high: with nearly A$150 billion in the investment pipeline, WA's share of national mining and petroleum investment represents nearly 60% of total investment in Australia's resources sector. Still, challenges abound.
"A key headwind is securing project financing," Johnston said, ahead of his presentation to the Future of Mining conference in Perth next month.
"Despite strong demand, critical minerals projects face many challenges including complex mineralogy and specialised processing, and market risks due to concentrated supply chains and opaque markets."
Assistance comes from federal and state government financing and grants for technological innovation.
Hiring remains tough though, especially finding people with STEM qualifications, geotechnical engineers, mining engineers and metallurgists. However, mining has plenty to offer.
"The resources sector continues to offer a range of well-paid roles and lifestyle opportunities for employees," Johnston said.
He also noted increasing numbers of students enrolling at Curtin University's WA School of Mines in Kalgoorlie. Also, in 2020, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA launched a Digital Technologies Program in the Pilbara for coding and robotics skills. That is now being deployed for primary and high school students.
Johnston said government must lead in creating incentives that mitigate the financial risks of exploration and hasten mining site approvals. But it must also build ESG regulatory frameworks, support diversity, and improve worker health and safety.
Johnston is optimistic though.
"Western Australia is home to one of the most diverse and successful resource sectors in the world," he said. "Our State is currently the world-leader in the production of iron ore and lithium, and among the top five producers of LNG, gold, nickel, alumina, cobalt and rare earths."
With the right carrots and sticks in place, that success can continue.
The Hon. Bill Johnston is a keynote speaker at the Future of Mining conference in Perth, to be held over September 18 and 19 at the Pan Pacific. Delegates can register their attendance here.