A key industry consortium has described as “staggering” the impending demand for infrastructure in South Australia and deemed essential that its early development proceeds if the State is to fuel the prospective mining boom for at least the next two decades.
In a major high level study commissioned and released by the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy (SACOME), the organisation warned that the State’s burgeoning hard rock and energy sector needed “crucial decisions now — not in the future” on the necessary infrastructure to service the expected massive resources growth.
Initial estimates suggest a minimum of $25 billion in private infrastructure expenditure has already been flagged by South Australian explorers and mine developers as necessary for crystallising the State’s lead mineral projects, or the expansion of existing mining operations.
The study found that the massive expansion planned for the Olympic Dam copper, gold and uranium mine would be pivotal in influencing infrastructure decisions impacting the whole of South Australia’s mining fraternity. Furthermore, many of the other projects combined will require infrastructure rivalling the needs of the Olympic Dam expansion, and in some cases, in a much shorter timeframe.
“The South Australian resources sector is at a crucial point in infrastructure development and the seriousness of this situation should not be underestimated,” SACOME’s chief executive Jason Kuchel said.
“While the challenges and opportunities for the mining sector in South Australia have never been greater, we face for the first time as a whole economy, an unprecedented decision making opportunity.
“How well and how soon we make those decisions will determine the effectiveness with which we bring South Australia’s rich mineral potential to reality over the next 20 years.
“With the proposed BHP Billiton Olympic Dam expansion set to be one of the world’s biggest open cut mines, and a range of mining operations coming on stream or expanding, the impending demand for a whole range of infrastructure needs is staggering,” Kuchel said.
SACOME has endorsed the warnings outlined by the study’s authors.
The study’s consortium member, Professor Richard Blandy, said the demand for skilled employees in a range of industries and services as a result of developments in the South Australian mining industry would more than double — from an estimated 340,000 in the past year or so to 690,000 by 2027. This direct labour requirement, when coupled with the related family numbers, would provide an enormous challenge for the State to meet over this period.
Professor Blandy said cross-sector “collaboration” would be fundamental to evolving an efficient mining infrastructure across South Australia, a sentiment echoed by the other consortium members — lead infrastructure engineering company, Connell Wagner and supply chain advisory specialists, SCM.
“Many small to medium exploration companies wanting to move into mining and working alone will be unable to meet the high costs of their infrastructure,” Connell Wagner’s principal Ron Ely said.
“Effective collaboration by South Australian companies will provide the economies of scale necessary for them to compete for some of the new and expanding mine operators’ plant and equipment works — thereby reducing the extent that is sourced and preassembled offshore.
“It will be much better for the State and its economy to work together at keeping as much as possible of the industry work, local,” Ely said.
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