Australia has an abundance of natural resources, many of which have been in demand for years. The achievements of Australia’s resources sector are remarkable and contribute to the nation’s wealth and living standards. They also place Australia in a strong economic position globally.
This success is the result of decades of hard work, risk taking and highly innovative ventures by hundreds of thousands of Australians. Through vision and sheer hard work, Australia has built world-class industries, workforces and capabilities that have captured resources investment.
However, Australia can do even better. It can capture more investment, create more jobs, improve environmental management and community engagement, and ultimately generate more prosperity. At the same time, it can enhance its global position.
This is not a fanciful ambition. A massive and long-term economic opportunity is on offer, and as one of the world’s great trading and resources nations, Australia has much to gain.
Global demand for resources continues to grow, a trend that is expected to continue over the coming decades. 1 This is being driven by population growth and the expansion of a more aspirant middle class in developing and emerging economies. Demand is increasing for metals, energy and petroleum products for both traditional applications and those brought about by the digital age. Much of this growth will be in the Indo-Pacific region, which will mean that four of the five largest economies in 2030 will be on Australia’s doorstep: China, India, Japan and Indonesia.
The taskforce firmly believes Australia can fulfil the ambition for 2030 and beyond of having the world’s most advanced and successful resources sector, delivering sustained prosperity and social development for Australians.
Realising this ambition will not be easy. Nevertheless, the taskforce noted a general mood of confidence and optimism through their consultations, backed partly by the past successes of Australia’s resources sector. The sector now generates exports worth $226 billion per year—more than half of Australia’s estimated total exports for 2017–18. 2 It has enriched the lives of all Australians by growing the economy and helped lift millions of others in the wider Indo-Pacific region out of poverty. The income it generates for workers, shareholders and governments helps to pay for life-changing services such as those provided by schools and hospitals. It also continues to help close the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by enabling them to live healthy and prosperous lives. Critically, it remains the lifeblood of many regional and remote communities.
The resources sector involves many different trades and professions, scientific disciplines and industries. These range from the foundational mapping of geology, and exploration and development to full-scale quarrying and extraction, the decommissioning of operations and site rehabilitation. Other important players in the sectors are the technology, services and equipment suppliers that support these activities.
The sector extends to the relevant regulatory and policymaking agencies of governments, and the public and private research institutions that develop new ideas into new solutions. Importantly, it also includes people who work in the communities in which various sector industries operate. When this report talks about the resources sector, it is referring to this broad group of people.
To progress, Australia’s resources sector requires a focused and collaborative effort across industry, governments, research bodies and community stakeholders to improve on current performance and address the significant opportunities and challenges presented by a rapidly changing world.