Nationals State agreement review call falls on deaf ears

THE leader of Western Australia’s National Party has renewed a call for a parliamentary inquiry into mining legacy state agreements struck before 1970.
Nationals State agreement review call falls on deaf ears Nationals State agreement review call falls on deaf ears Nationals State agreement review call falls on deaf ears Nationals State agreement review call falls on deaf ears Nationals State agreement review call falls on deaf ears

The original exploration camp at Mount Goldsworthy

WA Nationals leader Mia Davies made the initial call for an inquiry in September last year.

Davies wants the Economics and Industry Standing Committee to look at the nature of any residual evaluating commitments in the state agreements so the people of WA can see whether those commitments have been, or will be, honoured.

The state agreements in question include Rio Tinto's iron ore agreement in 1963 that spawned the towns of Tom Price, Paraburdoo and Dampier; Cliff's Robe River agreement; BHP's Mount Goldsworthy and Mount Newman agreements; the Pinjarra alumina agreement; the Dampier Salt agreement; the Evaporites (Lake MacLeod) agreement; and the Leslie Salt agreement.

Former Premier Sir Charles Court pioneered the state agreements, which were struck with the aim of establishing a successful mining sector in in the Pilbara, and undertaking downstream processing activities to utilise the low-grade ores there.

At the time there was a lack of infrastructure in the Pilbara and the region's remoteness and harsh conditions inhibited industrial development.

However, Sir Charles came up with a plan to bring the mining industry in, by making the companies pay to establish the mines, town, railways, infrastructure and ports, housing, recreational and other facilities and amenities including schools, water and power supplies.

While the state agreements helped facilitate the development of the iron ore industry in the region they afforded the companies favourable concessions, and Davies wants those concessions reviewed.

Davies told Australia's Mining Monthly the Department of State Development estimated last year that WA only had about 69 years of iron ore left at current production levels.

She said the basic tenet of the agreements was to deliver a benefit over multiple generations, not just dig it up, ship it out and move on.

In 1963 when Sir Charles, as the Minister for Industrial Development, signed with Rio Tinto to create its company towns he envisioned that if the Pilbara was administered successfully by successive generations, it would still be operating on an economic basis in 200 years' time, handling 200 million tonnes of product a year.

However, today BHP and Rio Tinto collectively export nearly 600Mt of raw natural ore and have no downstream processing in place in the state, contrary to Sir Charles' vision.

Davies motion was once again adjourned, and passed over for debate at the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly.

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