What constitutes a FAIR CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY from Miners?
The debate on the role and responsibility of mining companies in Australian is rapidly becoming a volatile one, with residents of the Southern Highlands of New South Wales and the City of Toowoomba in Queensland becoming quite militant as miners attempt to encroach on their residential territory, while farmers in the Gunnedah region of NSW, Margaret River in WA and the Darling Downs in Queensland become even more aggressive in defence of their land.
On the other hand, the mining tax, first mooted over a year ago, is still not a reality as small miners, and some large ones like Fortescue, rebel against the deal that the Federal Government made with BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata last year.
Even more significant is the clash between West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, and Federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, on the issue of the right of States to increase their mining royalties. This gets to the real nub of the issue as to who should control the mines that are the backbone of the Australian economy. It may take a referendum to give the Federal Government the sole right to tax the mining industry. This will be a bitter battle, but it is a necessary one, as we need one government to be able to set a policy that determines where new mines can be opened in the national interest and where sensitive areas can be protected, while ensuring that all Australians prosper from the mining boom and future generations have some minerals left for their economic and social use.
The prosperity of the mining industry is vital to the good life of every Australian, but miners have national responsibilities that they must undertake in a progressive manner, and they seem reluctant to accept them even though most operating mines are trading very profitably, some extraordinarily so, like those mentioned above.
It is a great pity that we don’t have a national plan for mining that covers the needs of Australia over the remainder of this century in terms of the way in which all Australians can share in the prosperity that mining generates, but also covers the impact of mining on other industries, the environment, the currency and our lifestyle.
The tragedy is that no one in Australia is even considering such a plan.