Mining ministers stay united

FEDERAL, state and territory mining ministers have agreed to maintain a coordinated national approach to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the mining industry.
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Australia's mining ministers are maintaining a united front in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

The ministers met on April 16 via teleconference to discuss the pandemic with a focus on the safety of resources workers and the communities they live and operate in.

However, they also looked into wider resources issues such as critical minerals and a national gas reservation policy. On the latter point, a number of state and territory ministers were concerned about the ramifications of a national approach to the issue.

They agreed the resources sector remained essential to jobs, the economy and regional communities and that onshore exploration had to be maintained to the greatest degree possible.

That said, there are restrictions in place in several jurisdictions to protect vulnerable Aboriginal communities from the COVID-19 virus.

The ministers also agreed to take all reasonable steps - in line with expert medical opinion - to keep the sector open for business.

State, territory and federal agencies are to work together with industry to minimise the disruptions caused by restrictions that have been imposed on workforce mobility and supply chain restrictions.

Both Queensland and Western Australia have stopped interstate fly-in, fly-out workers from coming in.

WA has also restricted travel within the state. Mining workers are exempted from that ban, however, there is some bureaucracy involved.

The WA authorities are understood to be working on an electronic solution to speed up the process.

There has also been a marked reduction in interstate air travel, which is having a major impact on airfreight.

The ministers also want Australia's resources sector poised to play a role in Australia's economic recovery when the COVID-19 crisis eases.

Critical mineral are likely to play a major part of that.

The ministers endorsed a Council of Australian Governments Critical Minerals Work Plan developed to support the critical minerals sector.

The federal government's Critical Minerals Facilitation Office will oversee and coordinate the ongoing development and implementation of the plan.

However, the ministers also asked the Productivity Commission to suspend work on its report into resources regulation while the jurisdictions dealt with the COVID-19 crisis.

Federal mining minister Keith Pitt said government and industry were working together to not only tackle the challenges facing the sector today but also to position the industry to lead Australia's rebound in the months ahead.

He said the critical minerals area was one that would play a key part in that rebound.

"Australia is well positioned to capture growing critical minerals markets to generate new sources of growth in the resources sector," Pitt said.

"Australia is the world's leading producer of three of the most sought-after critical minerals -  lithium, titanium and zirconium.

 "All are used in the manufacture of advanced technological goods and will be important to Australia's ongoing importance in the international resources market."

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