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Mining & Resources

Diversification – Key to growing regional cities during mining sector slowdown

4 Jul 2013, by Informa Insights

The rapid growth of the mining industry in the Pilbara has encouraged the growth of the region. Despite the current slowdown in the mining sector, the Pilbara Development Commission is working closely with the resources industry and encourages different sectors to team up to sustain regional cities and towns, and develop industries further.

Dr Ken King, Chief Executive Officer of the Pilbara Development Commission, elaborates on the collaboration.

Dr Ken KingIron ore is Australia’s largest export commodity in Australia. Approximately 95% of this is produced in the Pilbara. How has the rapid growth of the industry affected development of the region?
The Pilbara is rising to the challenge of developing sustainable cities, towns and communities that will continue to be reliant on the resources sector. The rapid growth in iron ore exports and the sustained development of the resources sector has highlighted the need for flourishing, permanent cities with high quality services and amenities, prompting the State Government to invest more than $1 billion into the Pilbara Cities vision that targets Karratha and Port Hedland to grow to cities with populations of 50,000 each by 2035.

Recent reports have stated that building activity in the region is expected to remain high despite the current slowdown in the mining sector. How are you working with the resources industry to address current issues such as housing infrastructure, and training and employment for local communities?
The Pilbara Development Commission is working in partnership with members of the resource industry, government agencies, local businesses and not-for-profit organisations to create synergies to ensure that supply for housing meets demand and this is supported by the appropriate provision of core infrastructure such as water and power.  Workforce development remains a key priority. The Pilbara workforce development plan 2013-2016 developed in consultation with these partners provides a range of ongoing priority actions addressing education, training, employment and workforce retention in the Pilbara.

Can you give us two best practices examples of successful collaboration between the resource industry and regional development projects? What makes them successful?
The resource industry plays a key role in the Pilbara, not just as an employer but also as a responsible member of the community. Two projects that industry has contributed to are the $63.7 million Karratha Leisureplex and the $35 million Wanangkura Stadium in the Town of Port Hedland.  Both facilities are world class and both make a significant contribution to the amenity of the local community.

Mining the PilbaraThe Pilbara has attracted a number of industries with at times competing interests. From your experience, how can different sectors work together towards sustainable development of the region? Can you give us some examples of effective collaboration?
One of the key focus areas for the Commission is diversity, particularly economic diversity. For the Pilbara to continue to grow the economy needs to diversify to sustain regional cities and towns. Different sectors can certainly work together to develop industries. A good example is the resources sector providing water from mine sites to develop agriculture. Food and fibre that can sustain pastoral operations and also provide energy. Other industry outputs are being utilised to grow algae that can be processed as fuel, nutraceuticals and fodder. The Pilbara has a history of resilience and a strong future based on innovation and collaboration.

You will be presenting at the 7th annual Mining the Pilbara Conference. What are the most important issues that you would like to discuss with the industry peers?
The Commission is a courageous and knowledgeable advocate for the Pilbara in order to progress its growth. The Pilbara, Australia’s Global Economic Hub is the economic powerhouse of the nation and the most important matter for industry is to maintain that growth going forward. Continued operations and ongoing maintenance provides significant employment, creates opportunities and encourages further investment to grow the local economy.  My presentation at the Conference will focus on the success achieved over the last three years through the implementation of the Pilbara Cities vision.

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