Get in on the boom, Australia tells developing nations

Thirty ministers from booming mining regions Asia, Africa and the Pacific will attend two conferences in Sydney next week to get the most out of the industry.

According to The Australian, they are among 600 delegates who will attend AusAID’s Mining for Development conference and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

The ministers are coming from countries including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Iraq, Guatemala and Papua New Guinea. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo will also be present.

AusAID’s purpose of the conference is to help these countries get the most out of the mining industry and protect it from the disadvantages like rising currencies and harmful environmental effects.

Director-general of AusAID Peter Baxter said it was important to sort out policy settings for the resources sector, which generated Africa six times the income it received from aid.

Baxter added most countries with mining potential were developing countries and sees this as an opportunity to decrease poverty.

“Mining can help poor people directly, by employing them and buying their products – but relatively few people get jobs in mines,” Baxter said.

“In PNG, for instance, the resources sector provides 70 per cent of export earnings, but just 3 per cent of jobs in the formal sector.”

The main gains should come from better services from governments and local community groups through taxes and royalties, he said.

“Australians are recognised as world champions in turning rocks into prosperity, and making sure it also flows to people living around mining sites.

“Our experiences with indigenous landowners, in fragile and remote environments, is very relevant for mining in other countries.”

Not everyone is convinced of this strategy by AusAID. Many NGOs have thrown accusations the initiative favours corporate interests rather than developing nations.

But Baxter defended the initiative, saying AusAID is not working with mining companies or funding social responsibility activities.

AusAID has created a committee to guide the nations to reap the benefits out of the mining boom for everyone.

Committee members are representatives from BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Newcrest. Geoscience is assisting in mapping the resources in partner countries.

With a $5.6 billion budget just announced, AusAID will encourage developing countries to develop a business environment that will promote private sector investment.

It will help the governments put together mining agreements and revenue avenues.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.