Minerals Week focuses on mining after the boom

The Minerals Week Seminar was launched in Canberra this morning, setting the need for policy reform as a key agenda for the post-boom mining industry.

In his opening speech Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Andrew Michelmore expressed his concerns about difficulties faced by the industry and government.

"The challenges we face as an industry and as a country are not getting any smaller. The heady years of price and investment surges are behind us," he said.

Michelmore said that many questioned the ability of our political system to meet industrial challenges, and criticised the apparent "obsession in some political offices with media management over just bout everything else, our reduced capacity to conduct serious policy discussions, in an age where social media fragments the body politic, and nourishes narrow agendas and crusades".

"Today provides the chance for us under the umbrella of the MCA to have our own conversations about where we are heading, and to focus on the strategies needed to secure our industries future."

Guest speaker and minister for Science and Industry Ian Macfarlane told the audience that it was important for Australia to retain it's competitiveness in the global commodity market.

"Despite the easing of commodity prices from the height of the boom, Australia is still one of the largest and most successful exploration and mining countries in the world, and we should be proud of that," he said.

"Notwithstanding the downturn the resources sector was still a major contributor to real GDP growth in 2013/14, responsible for 0.7 per cent of the 2.5 per cent increase in the GDP that year."

"But competition around the world is strong and productivity is yet to be fully reset to the current market conditions."

However, Macfarlane said the mining story was not all "doom and gloom", with iron ore exports to China up 18 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, compared to 2014.

 The minister for industry said that the Australian government's focus was on industry policy, and that the government had noticed that science and innovation were the key to reform.

"Science and innovation are also a key part of the mining opportunities…as well as providing productivity opportunities for traditional commodity exports like iron ore and coal," he said.

"Our industry innovation and competitiveness agenda is aimed squarely at building productivity and competitiveness amongst your industry."

Macfarlane said some of the key areas of scientific research conducted by government funded industry growth centre initiatives included mining equipment technology, and services in oil and gas energy resources.

Government strategies for the industry-led growth centres will be outlined against the themes of identifying opportunities to reduce regulatory burden, encouraging collaboration and commercialisation, improving capabilities to engage with international markets and global supply chains, enhancing management and workforce skills, and bringing industry and science closer together.

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