Launching the inaugural National Mining and Related Industries Day in Brisbane on Friday, mining mogul Gina Rinehart called on mining’s critics to visit a mine site and see for themselves what it takes to keep the nation’s lights on.
Hitting out at mining’s critics and the industry’s portrayal in the media, Rinehart said Australia’s standard of living is largely a result of mining’s work.
“In a country that owes its standard of living in large part to the mining and related industries, too many Australians in the cities have a bad reaction to even the thought of mining,” she said.
“While we're out there doing the work ….our critics can do the talking!
“How many Australians appreciate that the efforts of our country's miners keep the lights on for a large part of the world? We can bemoan coal, uranium, and shale oil but try to imagine the lives of billions of people without electricity; would we wish to be just one of them?”
Rinehart claimed Australia’s mining sector is operating under “a movement which seemingly wants [it] not to exist – but has no problem planning how to spend the billions in royalties and taxes we pay”.
“Increasingly, today's children are taught that 'mining is bad' – that it's ‘environmental vandalism’,” she said.
“And can you blame them for thinking it – when almost daily we have similar in our media.”
The iron ore magnate asked how many of “the knockers” have ever seen a mine site, claiming mines are not “one giant quarry”.
Instead she called on mining’s opponents to “see for themselves… how far apart these mines actually are, and maybe even get their shoes dirty, put on the hard hat and reflective safety gear, wave away the flies or mosquitos, share the dust and heat and have a look for themselves”.
Named the patron of the day, Rinehart said miners need to speak out and tell their story.
''We are here today to celebrate an industry group that is too often shy about speaking of its efforts and contributions,'' Rinehart said.
''As a collective, we seem to prefer to stay 'beneath the radar' for fear of attracting too much of the wrong attention – and waking up the inevitable 'tall-poppy hit squad'!''
The Australian billionaire told delegates the mining sector is a key pillar in the nation’s economy, crediting it with powering the country through “economic woes felt by the rest of the world”.
Rinehart told delegates that many Australians believe that government spending drives the economy rather than business and industry.
“Let's speak up about the efforts and risks and contribution, and how important our industry group is to help pay off our debt and enable essential services, and also balance those stories with the realities,” she said.
Rinehart explained that often mining success stories are portrayed as “luck” rather than hard work.
“We know that fewer than one per cent of prospects become mines. The public doesn't,” she said.
“They even think that once you have a tenement, it just starts pouring out money to the lucky rich few, with no effort, work, risk or investment, and without providing much value or opportunities to anyone, save the privileged few.”
She said mining’s future in Australia hangs in the balance, facing mounting overseas competition from lower cost countries in Africa and South America, and from Indonesia.
“Our existence is fragile because our costs are some of the highest in the world, yet we have to sell our products on the world markets in competition with all others,” Rinehart said.
“The world doesn't owe Australia a high cost existence; it simply won't keep buying our products if we don't try much harder to lower our costs.”
Defending the sector’s cost cutting initiatives this year, Rinehart said cost reductions are critical for the industry to continue to compete, adding that media attacks ignore “the reality” of what needs to be done to “continue to earn revenue and support Australia’s standard of living”.