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Tuesday, 11 February 1986
Page: 97

(Question No. 566)

Senator Mason asked the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, upon notice, on 8 October 1985:

1. Have some $100m worth of orders for capital equipment been placed, during the last 10 months, with Australian consortiums to supply from overseas sources, equipment that is destined for the expanding area of technology `longwall' mining?

2. Is the manufacture of this equipment, which is basically steel fabrication coupled with electro-hydraulic control systems, well within Australia's industrial capacity, and is it an industry which is currently sadly underutilised?

3. Has the Minister for Industry Technology and Commerce considered, or will he consider, some short-term assistance to Australia's struggling manufacturing industry by helping them to break into this lucrative segment of the mining industry?

Senator Button —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

1. I am in no position to say what orders have been placed overseas for longwall mining equipment, although industry sources estimate the figure at $40 million during 1985.

2. Australian industry has the capacity to manufacture certain components for longwall mining systems. Assembly of longwall mining equipment is also carried out in Australia using imported and locally produced components. However, it is understood that local manufacturers do not have the capacity to produce the coal cutting face of the system, known as the shearer, nor elements of the hydraulics and leg supports. I understand that the major factor inhibiting local manufacture of the complete longwall mining unit relates to the small size of the Australian market coupled with the substantial tooling up costs which would be necessary to undertake production of components now imported. In the long term however as the conversion to the longwall system of mining gathers pace in Australia there could be increased opportunities for Australian manufacturers.

3. Longwall mining systems were covered by the recent inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission into the heavy engineering industry. The Commission's report is now under consideration by the Government.