Western Australia ready to assist Africa's mining sector

PERTH, Australia, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Resource-rich Western Australia has signaled it wants to work with African governments to help boost their mining industries.

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett told The Australian newspaper he was willing to offer the state's advice to Africa on mining laws, tax regimes, tenement schemes, tax systems and environmental and safety measures similar to Australia.


Barnett noted that Africa has about 30 percent of the world's minerals reserves, but the continent needs to improve the regulation of the mining sector.

While Western Australia is the biggest mining economy in the world, Barnett told the newspaper, "the state's long-term future is not only here, it's also in being part of Africa's development."

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in late June that the China-led resources boom was over, and that Australia needed to find growth elsewhere. A slowdown in China's growth has led to a weakened demand and a slump in prices of key commodities.

More than 40 percent of Australian mining occurs in the state of Western Australia.

"For many years, people in the mining industry in Australia, and in government, have seen Africa as a threat, Barnett told The Australian. "I don't happen to share that view. I think Africa is more of an opportunity than a threat."


Barnett also had the same message in his speech at the Africa Down Under conference this week in Perth, an event which drew about 2,000 delegates, including 15 African mining ministers.

Noting that Western Australia's mining industry has had its share of mistakes and failures since its infancy in the 1890s, Barnett said there is much that can be taken from those experiences and applied to African nations.

"The one thing that none of us can do is give away a mineral or hydrocarbon for no price," the premiere advised the group, emphasizing that "the host nation derives a fair return for the minerals and petroleum resources owned by that nation."

As for the issue of mining royalties, Barnett noted that Western Australia collects $4.2 billion a year.

"The industry will often describe that as a tax," he said. "It is not a tax. It is the price you pay to acquire a publicly owned, government-owned natural resource."

Currently, he said there are 197 Western Australian companies involved in African mining.

Also speaking at the conference, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr on Wednesday said that the bulk of business between Australia and Africa was not resources extraction, but knowledge transfer.


But he said Australian companies were well positioned to assist their African counterparts in extraction services, as well as operational transparency in the resources sector.

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