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Sustainable Future for Our Natural Resources

November 9, 2011
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Australia’s natural resources and mining industries face an uncertain future. A future clouded in the short term by the haze of new taxation regimes, increasing restrictions on new development approvals, and an accelerating pace of growth which other parts of the country and the economy are struggling to match. But also a future shining bright with the promise of longer term demand for our products, technological innovations which will bring news ways of working, and a deeper understanding amongst the Australian people of the value the resources industries bring to the entire country.

Extraction and processing of our natural resources is a non-negotiable part of the way the modern world functions. Government and industry know that resource extraction cannot just stop in its tracks, or even slow down dramatically in any short period of time. It will and must continue for many generations to come.

As a mining engineer myself, it’s my hope that my children and their children alike will still be able to work in the mining and resource industries in Australia in the decades to come

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I hope when they arrive on a mine site to be a part of one of the most quintessentially Australian industries that things will have changed a lot for the better, but in many ways still remain the same. I hope the industry has managed to demonstrate to Australia and the world that extraction of our natural resources is not a bad thing, and that it can be done in a sustainable manner. I hope there is new technology, new ways of mining and extraction, and new methods of rehabilitating once we’ve left.

And I also hope that the industry retains its character, its can-do attitude, and its quiet understanding of just how important it is to our country, despite what many vocal parts of the community would try to convince us otherwise.

Resources industries and the government must work together in coming years and decades in a two part approach to protecting and promoting one of our most important assets. Firstly the challenge is to improve the industry’s image and the understanding of the industry and its benefits amongst the general public. Secondly the industry itself must use its extraordinary technological know-how and innovative abilities to find ways to be a more efficient, cleaner, a more socially interactive, and overall a more sustainable industry. Australia has long been a leader in bringing technological advances to the resources industry, leading to valuable productivity and efficiency improvements. We can now depend on the industry to turn these capabilities to efforts aimed at dramatically improving sustainable practices.

So what does the mine of the future look like? Well despite the enthusiasm of many to see the end to mining as we know it, the mine of the future still looks like a hole in the ground, and not a wind turbine or solar farm. But it looks different in the future – it is a quiet, out of sight, green and clean site. There is still a hole in the ground where the minerals have been taken out of, but the hole is much smaller as mining technologies improve our understanding of what’s in the ground, which in turn means we need to take much less away to get the same amount of what we need. Mining in the future has become like keyhole surgery – getting the same result for a much smaller surface impact and disturbance, and leaving the land with a much shorter recovery time.

For the good of our balance economy and future, Australia should not simply become the world’s mining pit at the expense of other industries. But neither should we ignore the vast resources’ wealth we are endowed with -wealth which is valuable to both our economy, and the economies and development of our neighbours. We owe it to them and to ourselves to extract and share this wealth.

The natural resources and mining industries have a bright future in Australia, and much more yet to contribute to the way of life of all Australians and our neighbours. The challenge ahead is to contribute in a sustainable way that protects our nation’s many other assets for the long term – assets like our regional communities, environmental wonders, and the many other industries which make Australia what it is.

This article originally published as part of the IBM Shaping Our Futures campaign at:

http://www-07.ibm.com/innovation/au/shapingourfuture/index1.html

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2012 2:33 am

    So very little done, much to do.
    We do not have a very monopoly. We’ve got market share. There’s a difference.

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  1. Trunk Line » Blog Archive » Sustainable production vs. consumption

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