Mining R&D falls by wayside

A damning report on the state of the mineral and petroleum R&D industry has been released by the WA Technology and Indust-ry Advisory Council.

The report found the government must play a larger role in contributing to the state’s knowledge base.

It also calls for R&D spending on mineral and energy resources to reflect the importance of the industry to the WA economy.

“The WA government spends around $50 million annually on R&D in plant and animal production. The annual spending by the WA government within the state on R&D in mineral and energy resources has been around $2 million.

“However, the value of our mineral and petroleum exports are about five times that of agricultural exports.”

The WA government currently funds less than one per cent of minerals and energy R&D in the state.

The report states the WA government should have an active role primarily because the interests of the current major players in R&D in the state are not inherently confined within the geographical boundaries of WA. Public companies, for example, have accountability to shareholders throughout the world.

The report came to the same conclusions as a study in 1994 by the WA Parliamentary Sel-ect Committee on Sci-ence and Technology.

Five years later problems with WA’s R&D minerals and petroleum industry still exist.

The report concludes: “the sweep of tasks envisaged transcends the boundaries of individual government departments. Furthermore, present investment is required to ensure future dividends, so that the time-span of the ventures, at least 15 years, extends beyond that of individual governments.”

The TIAC calls for the establishment of a statutory fund to provide R&D capital. The fund should be managed by the WA minerals and petroleum industries strategic technology council which should be an-swerable to a relevant government minister, the report said.

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