Speaking at the Australian Mines and Metals Association 2012 national conference, Ferguson said maintaining Australia’s competitive advantage would have its barriers.
“We face some easily foreseeable challenges as a result of the resources industry’s continued success,” Ferguson said.
“Rising wages and plant and equipment costs need to be matched by increased productivity if we are to maintain the pace of growth.”
However, Ferguson said increased productivity was not matched by the appropriate man hours required.
In highlighting his point, Ferguson said he was recently given an example of a company whose man hours for pouring a cubic metre of concrete had increased from 9.1 to 11.3 between 1998 and 2012.
“This is unacceptable and we have to front up to this challenge,” he added.
It was important to ensure that the nation’s productivity included an assessment of its approvals processes, with the government and industry coming together to make this happen.
“Governments must ensure a minimal regulatory burden and encourage exploration through acreage releases and the provision of pre-competitive geological data,” Ferguson said.
During his keynote address, Ferguson also spoke of the ongoing challenges facing resource employers, which included sourcing skilled labour to progress large projects into the operational phase.
His address comes in the lead up to the commonwealth government announcing the first enterprise migration agreement for the massive Roy Hill iron ore project in the Pilbara.
Ferguson said the new agreement was essential to ensure “peak workforce needs are met”
“The government is introducing regional migration agreements and enterprise migration agreements to enable resources projects to access overseas workers when vacancies can’t be filled locally,” Ferguson said.
Special Minister of State Gary Gray will announce the agreement today at noon.
This article first appeared in ILN's sister publication MiningNews.net.