2014 Annual Report

2014 was a difficult year for the minerals sector. On the most important measure of performance – safety and health – the sector’s performance fell well short of expectations.

On the most important measure of performance – safety and health – the sector’s performance fell well short of expectations.

There were 12 workplace fatalities in the sector, the highest in a decade. This is unacceptable for an industry committed to zero harm in the workplace. The industry responded to this challenge with a Safety Workshop in August launching a fresh commitment to re-double the industry’s efforts focussed on three major areas. This included a renewed focus on critical controls and developing strategies to identify and effectively manage them, the development of an effective sharing and learning system that provides proactive and timely data, and the development of a safety and health legislative model that better matches the industry’s activities and risks.

Industry conditions in 2014 were also difficult. Weaker demand growth in emerging Asia (including China) combined with robust global supply growth resulting in sharp falls in commodity prices. This highlighted the importance of regaining the competitive edge the sector had ceded to other nations over the last decade, including as a result of policy interventions. Reducing this burden of policy and regulatory costs was a major priority for the MCA in 2014. Good progress was made on this front.  The task for the MCA in 2015 will be to continue to improve the policy environment, and thus lay a platform for an even stronger mining sector contribution to the national economy. 

The carbon tax and the Minerals Resource Rent Tax were repealed and significant progress was made toward the achievement of a One-Stop Shop approach to project approvals. The Abbott Government’s focus on ‘red tape’ removal achieved good results, while free trade agreements were concluded with South Korea, Japan and China. When fully implemented, these deals will remove a range of troublesome tariffs on minerals and energy commodities and open up new investment channels. A new bilateral nuclear safeguards agreement with India will open up that market to exports of Australian uranium.

The MCA worked with farm and industry groups to ensure there were no changes to the fuel tax credits scheme. A new Exploration Development Incentive will help remove structural barriers to exploration investment. The Forrest Review into Indigenous Economic Development supported the MCA’s proposal for a new governance model that will help maximise Indigenous economic development opportunities from native title payments.

Within the MCA, the integration of the Australian Coal Association and the Australian Uranium Association was completed and the MCA expanded the range and depth of services to members with the introduction of a new first quarter Policy Roundtable to deepen industry engagement with policymakers and a fortnightly briefing on policy developments, known as the Issues Brief.

Minerals Week and the annual Sustainable Development Conference attracted strong support and very positive feedback. The Australia Japan Coal Conference in October was the largest ever held and the MCA-sponsored visit to Australia by leading energy policy expert, Robert Bryce, drew national media coverage and large audiences in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.

The MCA released important new publications promoting the economic contributions of the coal and gold industries. An MCA monograph by Professor Tony Makin outlining a policy agenda for Australia to regain international competitiveness received wide attention. We also published a study by Principal Economics highlighting the high cost of the Renewable Energy Target and analysis by the former NSW Treasury Secretary Michael Schur debunking claims that the mining sector receives subsidies. Other publications included a report by BAEconomics on the large economic gains from streamlining environmental project approvals and a paper by respected economist Jonathan Pincus comprehensively refuting claims that the mining boom had not delivered substantial gains to the Australian economy.

Despite the progress made in 2014, formidable challenges lie ahead for the minerals sector. The task for the MCA in 2015 will be to continue to improve the policy environment, and thus lay a platform for an even stronger mining sector contribution to the national economy. 

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