An additional labour force of 58,000 will be required by 2020 if Australia is to maintain its current share of commodities, Minerals Council of Australia director, environment and social policy, Melanie Stutsel told delegates at yesterday’s Desert Knowledge Symposium, Alice Springs.
Labour required includes 10% degree qualified professionals, 36% tradespeople, 35% skilled mine workers, with the remainder made up of other roles such as low skilled support and administration.
Stutsel said the mining industry in desert Australia has a lot of shared challenges; many of which are the result of the systemic failure of governments at all levels.
“These challenges include the lack of resources and effective representation for Indigenous people, and the paucity of soft infrastructure such as health, education, transport, community housing – services that are provided as core citizenship entitlements on eastern seaboard and capital cities,” Stutsel said.
Stutsel believes there has been the absence of any long-term vision or planning for remote Australia – economically, environmentally, socially and culturally – for some time.
In fact other than for the iconic status of the outback in tourism as part of the national identity, she said that desert Australia is even sometimes presented as a liability rather than an asset.
“The value of mining coming from desert Australia for the last financial year was $35 billion, which is 40% of the total national value of the industry and equates to 2-3% of Australia’s national GDP,” Stutsel said.
“The mining industry has often taken the proxy role of government in providing community level services including childcare facilities, housing, schools, healthcare and training.
“While this approach has been taken as a short term measure by the industry to back the systemic failure of governments, there is a growing recognition by our shareholders and the communities in which we operate that this approach is neither sustainable nor appropriate.
“At the end of the day we need to recast the view of the nation and its governments to see desert Australia as an asset not a liability, where the minerals industry can provide an effective catalyst for regional economic diversity and development of strong and resilient desert communities.”
Of all the mining development occurring nationally, 84% occurs in the desert. Stutsel spoke yesterday at the Desert Knowledge Symposium, held in Alice Springs from November 3 to 6, to highlight the challenges and opportunities facing desert communities and economies affected by mining activity.
Stutsel’s forecast labour demand is a 68% increase on what the current industry employs nationally.