Speech by Minister Willem Westra van Holthe - PATHWAY FOR THE MINING INDUSTRY

Good afternoon, and it is terrific to see such a large crowd here this afternoon. In reference to a discussion I had before with Drew Wagner, there are a few things I am going to talk about this afternoon, but one thing I won’t talk about is the impending death, or the death of any foreign leaders, or former leaders, as did my unfortunate Federal Collegue did at the Minerals Council of Australia dinner a couple of weeks ago.

But anyway, good afternoon and thank you for this, my second invitation, to address the Darwin Mining Club as the Minister for Mines and Energy, and talk to you about the future of the Northern Territory mining industry and the important role our Government plays in supporting, developing and growing your industry. There are a tonne of people I could acknowledge, but I certainly do want to acknowledge the presence in the room today of Kon Vatskalis, Member for Casuarina, and Shadow Minister for Mines and Energy.

As a Government we appreciate and understand the significant challenges that lie ahead for the mining industry. With commodity prices under pressure in an uncertain international economic environment, understandably there are cost pressures and, for the smaller players in particular, difficulties in raising finance.

Notwithstanding, the mining industry is the Territory’s largest industry sector and every indication points to this continuing for many years to come, and we certainly hope that’s the case. While we are lucky to have some of the world’s biggest global mining companies running world class operations in the Territory, history tells us it is the smaller players that we can expect to uncover the Territory’s next major new discoveries.

The Territory remains fundamentally under-explored, and only sustained greenfields exploration can unlock the vast mineral potential that we have. All great mining provinces start with greenfields exploration, which is the foundation of the mining sector. Junior exploration companies account for over half of the exploration spend in Australia1, although I suspect that the proportion is much higher here in the Northern Territory.

There is a fundamental truth in that small explorers are the best at making discoveries, and the best at juggling the risks. They have the track record of delivering discoveries of new deposits. And in the Territory, we’ve already seen new players in the market involved in developing deposits in the Roper province, as an example.

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