The minerals and mining industry is essential, absolutely everything is either grown or mined, there’s no other way. And whether it’s your kitchen sink, your car or even a hip replacement, it’s going to be minerals and metals that have made it. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coke and coal for steel-making, and we are one of the world’s two largest exporters of iron ore. As well, we’re the world’s second-largest producer of gold and we’re really preeminent in mineral-sands exports, that’s both for titanium and zircon.
We’re a leading commodity exporting country, and of those commodity exports 85% of them are minerals and energy, only 15% these days are farming commodities; that’s an extraordinary change from years ago when Australia rode on a sheep’s back. It’s no longer that: we’re in big yellow mining trucks.
Many people think of mining as the old fashioned miner with his pick and his shovel, maybe his gold pan, but that’s not the way mining is today. It’s really a very high-tech business, very complex, requires a lot of capital and a great deal of technical expertise. Australia in fact leads the way in IT applications in mining and particularly mining software. We’ve come a long, long way from the old prospector.
People may think that we’ve found all the reserves and resources of minerals in Australia but that’s certainly not the case. We know we have large reserves of some of the commodities but it’s unknown what is out there, and as technology changes we’ll have better materials and better tools to go and find more. But the exploration business is a very risky one, a very expensive one, very time-consuming sometimes. There’s a huge amount of country and it’s like looking for not even a needle in a haystack.