Australia is home to richest deposits of a wide range of minerals like iron ore, coal, gold, nickel, uranium, bauxite, phosphates, mineral sands, oil and natural gas. Mining and mining related activities contribute to 4.1% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Mining is not only the hottest but also an ancient industrial activity in Australia. The mining industry has grown from strength to strength right from the days of the Gold Rush in the 19th century.
Geoscience Australia, an organization under the Australian government, states that Australia contained the world’s largest reserves of zinc (18% of the world’s economic demonstrated resources), Lead (33%), Nickel (37%), Rutile (39%), Zircon (41%), Tantalum (95%) and Uranium (40%). Bauxite (25%), Black coal (5%), Brown coal (24%), copper (9%), Gold (13%), Iron ore (9%), Ilmenite (20%), Manganese ore (11%), Silver (15%) and Industrial diamonds (10%) rank in the top six worldwide.
Mineral resources also have a huge role in the country’s international trade, with mineral exports being worth some A$71 billion in 2006/07. The exponential increase in mineral exports is attributed to the burgeoning growth of Asian economies, especially China. Australia’s geographical location and its nearness to Asia cuts down the transport costs by a huge margin, a factor that heavily influences the cost conscious Asian customers. Coal, copper and iron ore hold the lion’s share in the mineral exports that are Asia bound.
Mineral Exploration is an ongoing activity that is essential for the continued discovery of mineral resources to meet the growing global demand. Over a period of five years, Geoscience Australia spent $58 million to execute major surveys for the discovery of hydrocarbon and energy minerals in onshore Australia. Geoscience puts the mineral exploration spending at a whopping $1.46 billion in 2006, a record 29% increase. Gold and Zinc exploration took 29% of the spending pie. Base metal exploration spending more than doubled while the spending on copper, coal and uranium exploration went up by 68%, 24% and 103% respectively. Approximately 66% of the mineral exploration expenditure was spent on confirming the presence of a prospective mineral and in identifying & defining its nature.
The mining industry in Australia is not focused on ruthless exploitation of the natural resources but on sustained development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The mining industry’s efforts are in compliance with the guidelines of International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and the Australian Minerals Industry Code for Environmental Management. Cutting edge technology, state of the art machinery and skilled workers ensure that mining is done in a socially, economically and environmentally friendly way.
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