Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

It’s an honour to join such an outstanding line-up of speakers and of course Western Australia’s Minister for Mines, Bill Johnston.

Bill attended the Mining Indaba in Capetown earlier this year and is a champion for the Australian mining industry in Africa.

I hope you have all enjoyed tonight’s dinner — generously provided by Woodside and First Quantum.

I want to thank all of the sponsors of Africa Down Under for continuing to support a fantastic initiative, now in its 16th year.

Africa Down Under is the largest African mining event outside of Africa.

I welcome representatives from African countries who have travelled the furthest to be here. I hope you will return home with new ideas and new Australian contacts that will assist you in your work.

This conference is held each year in Western Australia and that’s because a large proportion of all Australian investment into Africa is headquartered here. It is also the hub for mining innovation in Australia.

WA even has its own Memorandum of Understanding with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. And the University of Western Australia has established an Africa Research and Engagement Centre to strengthen ties between African academics, diasporas, and business.

Africa Down Under is just one part of Australia-Africa Week with all sorts of events promoting links between Australia and African countries in research, education, trade and investment, and arts and culture.

The links between African and Australian people are growing day by day. There are many African diaspora communities living in Australia, using their connections to facilitate trade and investment between our two continents.

More than half a million people of African heritage live in Australia and they are working hard, stimulating the Australian economy as well as sending remittances to family and friends back in Africa.

Our Australian High Commissioners and Ambassadors in Africa have also come back especially for Australia-Africa Week. Australia has nine diplomatic missions in Africa supporting bilateral relations with African nations and Austrade has offices in five countries. Our first mission was opened in South Africa in 1946.

While they are in WA, this group will be meeting with representatives from Australian mining, oil, and gas companies as well as mining equipment, technology, and services companies, seeking to hear their views.

Like many African countries, Australia is diversifying its economy. It was not that long ago that Australia relied on just a handful of commodities.

Now, new technologies are transforming the mining sector. Australia and Africa stand ready to provide a range of ‘critical commodities’ for the world — metals and minerals vital for the global economy.

All our countries need creative thinkers and we need to draw on each other’s strengths in complementary ways. We need innovation in the mines as well as innovation in the skills for resource development more broadly.

Over the next few days, I encourage you all to keep thinking of new ways that Australia and Africa, both resource-rich continents, can continue to work together to unlock opportunities.

Unlocking potential in Africa

African countries are estimated to have some 30 per cent of the world’s mineral, oil, and gas reserves. The potential is astonishing when you consider that Africa has:

  • the world’s largest cobalt, diamond, platinum, and uranium reserves,
  • 10 per cent of the world’s global reserves of oil, and
  • 8 per cent of the world’s global reserves of gas.

Resources in the ground are nice assets to have — but it’s the people of Africa who are the continent’s greatest resource and many African countries stand to benefit from a demographic boom.

Africa’s population of 1.2 billion is expected to double by 2050 and its growing urban middle class is creating new demand for goods and services.

We’re all here to learn from one another so that mining continues to bring tangible and sustainable benefits to our countries and our peoples.

Australia’s economic history shows that foreign investment brings the capital, skills, and connections to generate long-lasting returns from resources, including good jobs and a whole range of related business opportunities.

The critical factor for developing a mine to full production capacity is finding the right investors.

Since the gold rushes in the 1800s, Australia has welcomed foreign investment in resource projects from around the world.

Direct foreign investment helps Africans too, by creating jobs, developing skills, and opening up new opportunities.

Australia’s long mining history, good reputation, and proven expertise in exploration, mining, and processing makes us the ideal partner for resource-rich countries in Africa.

Australian mining companies are respected around the world for their responsible business practices, high-quality operational standards, and cutting-edge technologies in the field.

This year’s winner of the Telstra WA business of the year award, MineARC — a Perth mining safety company — is a great example.

MineARC’s emergency refuge chambers, like the one installed in Kibali gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year, are used around the world to save the lives of trapped miners.

Australia has already started to help build capacity in the extractives sectors of a range of African countries. Our support for capacity building is longstanding, targeted, and designed to support partner governments.

The Australian Federal Government and the Western Australian State Government delivered training on successful and sustainable petroleum sector governance for Ugandan and Kenyan government officials this year.

WA experts from the State Government’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety also delivered a regional workshop on policy and capacity building at Madagascar’s new Mining Business Centre.

Both these examples form part of 18 months of extractives industry training funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade around the African continent, including in Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt.

These workshops covered topics like mining legislation and regulation, attracting and retaining foreign investment, and community engagement and environmental compliance.

Australia is also leading the way in mining equipment, technology and services or the ‘METS’ industry. More than half of Australian METS companies are exporting their goods and services.

Australian company Worley Parsons, for example, has won a tender to provide engineering services to the South Lokichar oil project in Kenya.

WA exports to Africa in the last financial year, worth $1.4 billion, were mostly concentrated in METS.

New opportunities

Last year, the Australian Government released a Foreign Policy White Paper to guide our international engagement over the next 10 years with a number of high-level priorities agreed across government.

In the White Paper, Australia made a commitment to expand and diversify commercial links with Africa.

At the same time the White Paper was being put together, the Australian Senate launched an inquiry into our trade and investment relations with African countries, reflecting the growing interest of Australians in investing in and doing business with Africa.

The inquiry heard that almost one in 20 companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange already had an investment in Africa. And that resources would remain the main sector for Australian economic engagement in Africa for the foreseeable future.

Currently there are more than 170 Australian companies running over 400 mining and exploration projects across 35 African countries.

That’s why this annual event is so important — to bring together some of that very extensive experience, and reflect on how we can keep building on these productive relations between Africans and Australians.

Let me give you some more examples of recent successes for Australian businesses and African economies.

First, Base Titanium’s mineral sands project is Kenya’s largest mining investment. It is set to contribute US $1 billion to Kenya’s economy over the life of the mine.

Second, Perth-based Resolute’s gold mine in southern Mali — Syama — is the company’s biggest operation with known resources of 7.5 million ounces.

The Syama mine is on its way to be the world's first fully automated underground mine. This will reduce the number of highly paid foreign workers being flown in at great cost. It will increase both productivity and safety.

At the same time, Resolute is committed to upskilling, training, and empowering the local workforce.

Third, President Nyusi of Mozambique has just inaugurated Australian company Syrah’s graphite mine. Three other ASX companies — Triton Minerals, Battery Minerals, and Mustang Resources — will also mine graphite in the same area, providing a critical mass of Australian investment in the country.

Once these mines are operational, Mozambique will likely become the largest graphite producing country in the world.

And finally in Morocco, where we have a new embassy, Kasbah Resources is developing a large tin mine near Meknes with $94 million invested to date. This mine will employ over 300 people, mostly locals, and will showcase Australian expertise in METS.

Then there are also many future opportunities in rare earth and other minerals associated with the production of phones, computers, and other technology.

Lithium is especially in demand as the market for electric vehicles grows. Lithium and tantalum have been identified in Ethiopia; cobalt and lithium in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Base Metals has acquired permits for a high-grade lithium deposit in Madagascar.

Again, Australia and Africa are following similar pathways — Western Australia provides about 30 per cent of global lithium supply.

Australia’s regional engagement in Africa

In support of these efforts, the Australian Government is broadening its engagement across Africa by participating in regional initiatives.

We have helped to put the diamond industry, which is mainly an African industry, on a surer footing through the Kimberley Process.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is in its 15th year. It brings together 81 countries and gives consumers greater confidence when they buy diamonds that they are improving the livelihoods of those who produced them.

Some of you may have been here in Perth last year for the Kimberley Process Intersessional Meeting. As Chair, Australia championed responding to modern challenges in the diamond trade and better aligning the scheme with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Kimberley Process is an example of Australia and African countries working together to bring long-term benefits to some of the largest diamond-producing African countries, including Angola, which chaired the Kimberly Process in 2015; the Democratic Republic of Congo, which chaired in 2011; and Botswana, which chaired in 2006.

Australia also supports the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, promoting higher standards and more accountability in resource management.

Australia has supported the initiative since 2006, including committing $20 million in funding since 2007, and in 2016 we started the process of applying for membership. We encourage others to do the same.

Australia and Africa are also partners in the global trading system.

Australia was a strong advocate for negotiations on the Trade Facilitation Agreement in the World Trade Organization and worked with African countries and others to bring it to a successful conclusion after almost 10 years of negotiations.

The agreement entered into force early last year. We expect full implementation of the agreement to reduce trade costs by 14 per cent on average, boosting global exports by up to US $3.6 trillion.

Two-thirds of the expected benefits of the agreement will flow to developing countries, many in Africa.

Mining and community

As well as regional agreements, Australia is working with African countries on local initiatives.

I understand firsthand the way the mining industry can transform local economies and communities. Broken Hill, Australia’s longest running mining town, is in my electorate. It is known as the ‘silver city’ after silver ore was discovered there in 1883.

And of course it’s the birthplace of Broken Hill Proprietary Company, which went on to become BHP, one of the largest mining companies in the world.

The mines keep on giving. Earlier this year Broken Hill welcomed a new mine project for high-grade magnetite.

The $1.7 billion project to develop the mine site and supporting infrastructure will create about 1,200 construction jobs and a further 500 ongoing jobs during the mine’s 20-year life.

As part of the Senate inquiry into Australia's trade and investment relationships with the countries of Africa, WA Senator Linda Reynolds noted that this generation of mining executives knows that it makes good business sense to engage and support local communities.

Australian companies are already giving back to local communities across Africa.

This year, Australian companies operating in Ghana contributed to Australia’s efforts to fundraise for the Ghana team to participate in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. And I’m very pleased to see a number of these companies here this evening.

The Australian High Commission in Ghana set up a boxing ring on the lawn of the High Commissioner’s Residence and had a night of exhibition bouts to facilitate the fundraising. Even Azumah Nelson got involved — perhaps the greatest African boxer of all time. Of course, some of his most memorable fights were against one of our greats, Jeff Fenech.

And Ghana took home a bronze in boxing from the Commonwealth Games!

Another way Australia is helping build links between industry and community is through the Australia Awards program. Australia has offered scholarships to African students since the 1960s. These scholarships are the central focus of Australia’s development cooperation with African countries.

Australia Awards include Masters scholarships, post-doctoral fellowships, and short courses to African professionals. In 2018, Australia will fund up to 500 short- and long-term awards for African students, including courses on managing mine closure and small-scale mining.

WA plays an important role by hosting and educating Australia Awards scholars and fellows at its world-class educational institutions, including the WA School of Mines at Curtin University.

Conclusion

Australia is optimistic about Africa:

  • about the potential for Australian investment to increase, and
  • about the potential for African countries to chart a sustainable development path through resource management.

Africa Down Under is — and always has been — a great opportunity to share best practices and bring together government and business to align our interests.

I urge you all to make the most of the next few days.

Thank you.

Media enquiries

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