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Thursday, 30 March 2023
Page: 103

Mr STEVENS (Sturt) (11:27): I rise to contribute to the debate on the motion to take note of the ministerial statement by the Minister for Resources. I follow the member for Parkes, and I note that my father was born in his electorate, in Broken Hill. His father, my grandfather, worked as a mining engineer his whole career. He was educated in Adelaide and moved, soon after he married my grandmother, to Broken Hill, and my father and his three siblings were all born in Broken Hill and grew up there. My grandfather joined the Royal Engineers for the period of the Second World War, then returned to Broken Hill and continued to work at North Broken Hill mine until the mid-fifties, when he went to Mount Isa to work at MIM, Mount Isa Mines, which briefly, I think—after my grandfather finished there—was the largest company in Australia, by market capitalisation on the share market. That was during a period at the beginning of the 1980s. It is still an extremely significant mine, for a variety of resources—copper, lead, nickel, zinc and gold—much like the Broken Hill deposit that my grandfather worked at. He was general manager of capital works at both of those mines. And my father's first job out of university in Queensland was also with Mount Isa Mines, driving underground locomotives, which is probably done by remote control now, or some kind of robotic technology. But in the early 1970s his first job was driving locomotives underground. When my grandfather passed away, I remember finding in his garage, amongst a whole variety of hoarded things, an enormous chest of keys with tags on them. They were keys for every individual mineshaft, gate and locking mechanism throughout old MIM. I think Dad ended up donating them to the company, with some other collectables. So my family has a connection to the mining industry, much like our nation has a connection to the mining industry.

Adelaide, my home city, is very much in existence thanks to, firstly, the agricultural sector and, secondly, the mining sector. The member for Grey talked about the enormous contribution that mining is currently making in his electorate, which is 90 per cent of the state of South Australia, as it has contributed in the past. I mentioned Broken Hill. Without being too controversial, Broken Hill really is a satellite of South Australia, despite being in New South Wales. Adelaide is the nearest major metropolitan centre to Broken Hill, and I'd be more than happy for Broken Hill to be relocated to South Australia, particularly for the historical value of the mining royalties commensurately paid across to us from the government of New South Wales! But I concede that's (a) not up for debate here and (b) not very likely to happen.

I pay tribute to the mining industry and what it's doing in my home state of South Australia. But I also look at it as an opportunity. Mining and resources are going to make an enormous contribution as we have an energy transition and decarbonise our economy. The sorts of things that are going to be vital for that transition are the minerals that are required to fire the manufacturing and the technology that will achieve that transition—none more so than copper. Copper is the most fundamental metal for anything regarding electricity and electrification, as we all know. In South Australia we've got an enormous copper mine, the Olympic Dam deposit. It's sometimes identified as being a uranium mine because, of course, it is. It's the largest uranium deposit in the world. But the copper that's mined there, from a value point of view, is just as, if not more, significant to the operations of BHP there at Olympic Dam.

That mine was a controversial development at the time. The Labor Party were very split on allowing that mine to proceed in the seventies. A former member for Sturt, Mr Norman Foster, won the seat in 1969 and lost the seat at the next election, in 1972, to another Liberal predecessor of mine, Ian Wilson. It was the only seat won from the Labor Party in that election—an impressive feat. Norman Foster went on to serve in the South Australian upper house as a Labor member but was expelled from the Labor Party for supporting the Tonkin Liberal government's bill to allow the Olympic Dam mine to proceed. The Labor Party didn't support uranium mining then.

The Olympic Dam mine is the most significant business in my home state of South Australia now. It underpins the resources sector. It underpins all of the major regional towns that provide services to Olympic Dam. It has provided an opportunity for other significant deposits, like Carrapateena, the OZ Minerals mine, to proceed. It is now one of the biggest copper mines in the world. It is a very significant part of BHP's portfolio. It is earning hundreds of millions of dollars—billions of dollars, actually—in exports for our economy.

As the member for Grey pointed out, while Olympic Dam is the most significant deposit in the nation, there are probably a number of commensurate deposits co-located in the general vicinity. There's the Oak Dam exploration that is being undertaken right now. Most of the geologists, and BHP themselves, have to be very careful about what they say publicly from a market point of view and a stock market point of view. They are very cautiously foreshadowing that the Oak Dam deposit potentially could be commensurate with the Olympic Dam deposit. That would be absolutely transformational—if that confirmation occurs through the exploration activity that they're doing up there. Of course, that again is going to be copper, and copper is a mineral of the future. We know that we've got an enormous amount of copper already. It is exciting to think that there is more copper to be discovered, as demand for copper continues to increase at such a dramatic rate into the future and as we transition to clean energy and decarbonise our economy. Copper will be absolutely central to that.

We also know that other minerals that we have in abundance, like lithium and cobalt, are equally vitally significant. We know that there are huge industry opportunities in this country through the green transition. If we're producing green steel, that means the steelmaking will be co-locating itself with those iron ore deposits. You won't produce green steel by digging up iron ore and transporting it somewhere else. Why would you add that level of cost and/or challenge around the carbon footprint? You'll see a situation where, as technologically we discover the chemical industrial processes to allow for the production of things like green steel, that's going to happen right there where the iron ore deposits are. That's where the investment will be into steel manufacturing. That is an exciting prospect for this country as well. That's tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of jobs, if steel production around the planet relocates from where the customers are to where the raw material, being the iron ore, is. The biggest deposits for iron ore production are, of course, in our Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The future for mining and resources in this country is very exciting. We've got to embrace and understand how significant the contribution of the mining sector has been to our economy and the development of our nation in the past. Its future is even brighter going forward. When you look at the regular monthly statistics published by the ABS around exports, we are a lion's-share mining and minerals-exporting nation. If we didn't have things like iron ore, coal, copper, gold, silver, nickel, lead, zinc et cetera, and if we weren't exporting them, we would have a spectacular trade deficit. We would not have the wealth as a nation that we have now. Thank you to the pioneers in the industry and those who are working in it currently, who are contributing so much to our economy. It's a bright future. I encourage all of us, as a parliament, to make sure that we're in unison in supporting this industry that's going to underpin our economy well into the future.

Debate adjourned.