THERE are renewed hopes in the mining industry of better times ahead following recent financial commitments by the State Government.
A fortnight ago the Gallop Government announced it would spend $12 million during the next four years to update WA’s geoscientific data, and $2.1 million for a range of mining initiatives. The State’s mining laws will also be streamlined this year.
Both Premier Geoff Gallop and State Development Minister Clive Brown recently visited the US to try and drum-up interest in WA’s energy resources.
The Government has also given the green light to a number of mining projects in face of strong opposition from the conservation movement.
And while the Opposition says the Gallop Government’s recent announcement shows it is way off the mark, local industry groups seem slightly more enthusiastic.
The groups say that, while there is still a way to go before WA’s economic future – underpinned by the minerals and energy industry – is secure, the recent government initiatives are encouraging.
The State’s peak industry body, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, welcomed the Government’s moves.
“I think there has been some very good support from the premier and his ministers in terms of recognising the importance of the resources sector in Western Australia,” WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Tim Shanahan said.
At a WA Australian Pipeline Industry Association lunch last week, Mr Shanahan praised Dr Gallop for his effort to lead a recent US energy/trade delegation.
“It was a very significant effort by the premier to go [to the US] for 10 days,” Mr Shanahan said.
“It is the first time a WA premier has officially gone to the US since the early ’80s.”
However, Mr Shanahan said although the recent funding announcement was a step in the right direction, issues relating to the approvals process and regulatory framework that governed the mining industry needed faster reform.
“We need to remain world competitive on those things and there is always room for improvement in those areas,” he said.
The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) said the latest announcement was encouraging but fell short of the industry’s expectations.
AMEC research and policy officer Alan Leyton said the 2002 WA Bowler Report into greenfields exploration recommended that the State Government spend $24 million boosting geoscientific data over six years.
Only half this amount has been delivered for four years, which means a matching Federal Government contribution will only be equivalent to the State contribution.
However, Mr Leyton said the State Government was recognising that, without a thriving mining sector in WA there would be no funds for its key policy areas of health, welfare, education and policing.
“I think this announcement is, in part, a recognition of the basic fact, that, before you spend money you have to make money,” he said.
WA Opposition spokesman for Goldfields-Esperance, Matt Birney, said the Gallop Government’s $12.1 million allocation for geoscience was “a drop in the ocean”. More importantly, he said, the Government was ignoring the real impediment to mining in WA – Native Title.
“Until they are prepared to do something about Native Title they are only nipping at the edges,” Mr Birney said.
He said Labor was philosophically aligned to Native Title claimants and there were clear differences between the Labor and Liberal parties’ policy towards the issue.
“They [Gallop Government] are hell bent on paying and promoting claimants at the expense of industry, regardless of whether their claim to land has been proven or not.”
He said the Coalition was also prepared to spend up to $66 million on geoscience.