The importance of Australia’s minerals sector as an ‘essential industry’ for our country has never been more visible than it is right now during the COVID-19 crisis, writes ROB HOUGH

LEADER'S COMMENT

Dr Rob Hough, Director (acting) CSIRO Mineral Resources

As we saw through the global financial crisis, our resources are and will continue to play a key role to sustain our national economy and our regions.

The ongoing operation of the industry and our resource exports and the jobs it provides, at the very least, are softening the economic blow of the pandemic on our economy.

Positioning Australia for post-COVID global recovery

Our resources have placed us at the start of critical supply chains; providing Australia with a global advantage, and one that we can continue to build from.

We are incredibly well positioned for the post-COVID global recovery with our world class resources.

There are numerous opportunities as the global energy transition progresses, with electrification and digitisation likely to accelerate post-crisis, increasing high‑tech demand and with it, a vast increase in requirements for our minerals and metals.

That demand for supply, however, also comes with an increasing demand for sustainable production, efficient with energy, water and overall reductions in the environmental footprint of operations, including emissions.

End user preferences are for products with responsible supply chains and resource production, while investors also seek greater social and environmental performance from our companies.

Protecting the ongoing and future prosperity that we expect from our sovereign resources sector, including the contributions to government revenues that provide for essential services, requires us to support the industry to be sustainable, to decarbonise, to lead the world in clean resource contribution into our high-tech future.

As demand increases, the scarcity of some minerals and elements will make them critical or strategic to develop, to ensure that Australian demand and that of our partners can be met. This provides opportunity to create new mines and to shift more of our resource potential into truly economic deposits.

This presents huge opportunity and is a national challenge that we should address – there is surely value to be won for the first movers, those that perform strongly.

Unique Australian opportunity

For Australia, in what is a global race, we are ideally poised to provide technologies and solutions that support our sustainable resource supply.

In this issue of Resourceful we feature some of our technologies to support a sustainable resource sector for Australia, to deliver net zero emission resource supply, not just for minerals but also agriculture, another of our essential industries where the challenges are remarkably similar to ours.

An example of a pathway to emissions reduction in the mineral sector that we are currently exploring is in the onshore pre‑processing of iron ore.

We also feature our work to support the development and expansion of our critical minerals industry with a bridge to build a high-tech sector, including value adding to our raw resources here in Australia as well as to guarantee ensuring sovereign supply.

While these technologies and solutions would initially be focused on Australian mines and miners, it ultimately also provides a valuable addition to our, already formidable, mining-related technology and services export sector (METS).

Australia has led the world with technology for exploration for decades, and it is often said that if you visit any mine in the world you will likely find Australians there helping operate the mine.

We have the same opportunity now to build jobs, companies and exports from sustainable resource technologies, playing a global role to uplift the social and environmental performance of mining (also critical to supporting the sustainable growth of developing nations economies through their mining industries and uplifting more of the world's population from poverty).

A crisis brings huge disruption, and some companies will thrive post-crisis as they disrupt industries.

Australia has another advantage to be seized; a truly sustainable resource industry, value adding our resources into high technology and supplying the global shift to high technologies.

Resourceful magazine

Resourceful brings you the latest in innovation, technology and research from across the minerals value chain — from mineral exploration to mining and metal production. Get it by email or in print.

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