Australia must ramp up mining of nickel and copper and support nuclear power to get ahead and stay ahead, resources heavyweight BHP says.
In a report launched on Monday, the mining giant delivers a warning about Australia’s economic competitiveness and prosperity with the resources industry and governments at a crossroads on climate policy.
In recent decades, Australia has become the world’s leading mining exporter by scaling up core commodities including iron ore and coal.
But a global push for decarbonisation is challenging the thrust of one of the key engine rooms of the carbon-laden economy.
President of BHP’s Australian operations Geraldine Slattery said the nation must be ready and able to compete in the global arena.
Achieving the aims of the Paris Agreement on climate change will require the rapid and widespread deployment of clean energy technologies like renewable energy, nuclear power, battery storage and electric vehicles, according to BHP’s report.
Up to 140 new copper mines, 60 new nickel mines, 50 new lithium mines and 17 new cobalt mines will be needed by 2030 alone.
The scale of global capital investment is estimated at an additional $US100 billion per year but competition is intensifying, she warned.
“Success is not assured. It cannot be taken for granted and the costs of failure will be high and long lasting,” the report said.
Australia’s current share of global production is lower than its share of global resources in many future-facing commodities, including mainstays copper and nickel.
“This will need to change in order to win today’s resources race and the resources race of the future,” according to BHP.
Instead of missing out, increasing production could support jobs and capture $A19 billion in annual investment – almost double the existing pipeline.
Ninety per cent of the project pipeline would create jobs in outer-regional, remote or very remote Australia.
BHP said Australia could also extract a premium as a high-quality producer by demanding adherence to environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards and clear ESG reporting – across all companies.
More than 17 million Australians already have a stake in the mining sector directly or through their superannuation savings.
The copper industry alone could require around $US250 billion in growth capital over the next seven years under a plausible scenario for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.
“Australia has a huge opportunity to capitalise on major change in the world economy driven by the megatrends of decarbonisation, electrification and population growth,” Ms Slattery said.
But Australia’s competitors also have vast quantities of minerals essential to decarbonisation and are on a spending spree.
BHP’s “FOUR PILLARS” FOR AUSSIE PROSPERITY
* Stable and globally competitive policy, regulatory and fiscal settings to attracting and retain investment
* Slash red tape with a new risk-based approach to permitting with a focus on hastening investment decisions
* Infrastructure to unlocking existing mining basins and developing new ones, often in remote areas.
* Mining equipment, technology and a workforce skilled up to cope with the operations and systems of the future.
(Australian Associated Press)