Over 120 mining executives and professionals attended the recent Katherine Regional Mining and Exploration Forum and contributed to the event’s tremendous success. The forum offered local businesses the opportunity to talk openly with mining and exploration company representatives, fellow suppliers and other interested parties about the opportunities and challenges of exploration in the region.
Opportunities for people and business
“For members of the Katherine Region Mining Services Association (KMSA) this forum has delivered much more than just opportunities to expand our businesses,” conference chairman Kevin Grey, Chairman of the Katherine Chamber of Commerce said “In most respects, it has given us the opportunity to expand our thoughts and minds. Members now know what the industry expects of suppliers, how we communicate with larger organisations, how to make contacts with the right people, how to adjust to scale, how to think laterally about resources and most importantly, like everything else, that relationships are all about people. If local business can deliver a quality product at the right time and at a fair price, we are in the market.”
The forum kicked off with a special presentation from the Hon Willem Westra Van Holthe, Member for Katherine and Mines and Energy Minister. He made a special announcement stating that the McArthur River mine $360 million expansion plan has been approved. He stated that this would create an additional 300 jobs as well as income for the region’s mining services industry.
In this context it was encouraging to see that all organisations represented at the conference had detailed indigenous engagement plans and saw value in sourcing staff locally. According to Mr Grey, Territory Iron stood out with a particular mature model in their resourcing of indigenous staff. The company also had some success with conversions into long term employees. Territory Iron’s Manager for Heritage, Indigenous and Community Affairs at Territory Iron, Ben Keys said that it makes sense for mining companies to source workers locally. “With the number of projects that are going to come on line in the Katherine region, there’s going to be an enormous skills shortage,” Ben Keys, Manager for Heritage, Indigenous and Community Affairs at Territory Iron said. “There’s already a skills shortage, and given there’s a 60 per cent Indigenous population within Katherine, that’s an untapped resource really.”
This labour resource opportunity has been viewed as an extremely positive factor by many suppliers at the forum, so much so that it has led to the formation of an Indigenous Employment Working and Training Group. The group was formed by several Katherine based organisations, with the goal of structuring support mechanisms for indigenous staff transitioning into the full time workforce.
A commitment to social and environmental responsibility
The conference offered attendees plenty of opportunities to discuss the most pressing issues occupying the industry at the moment. Geoff Crowhurst, chairman of KMSA stated that the region could be on the verge of a mining boom. “Mining can be a pretty fickle business to be involved in, things can be well and truly on the go but then quite quickly stop, depending on commodity prices,” he said. “But there is certainly a lot of action around here at the present time, and if everything goes ahead it could be what we call I boom I suppose.”
Joseph Gutnick, MD and CEO of Merlin Diamonds spoke about reopening the Territory’s only diamond mine. `Diamond Joe” Gutnick said Merlin Diamonds was just waiting for final clearances before starting operations at Merlin, about 80km south of Borroloola. Mr Gutnick said the mine would be in full production by July. He also said on his appearance at the forum that he has “come to support a town that is going to be a part of our mine. We will give business to Katherine and surrounding areas and I want to show my appreciation.”
Crocodile Gold’s NT General Manager, Peter Crooks highlighted the importance of seeking ‘best practice’ contractors. He said that in an industry which attracts a high level of public scrutiny, professional conduct is essential for all parties involved. “It’s important for people to understand that certainly the larger mining companies today are only interested in operating to best practice standards,” he said. “We need to do that for a whole range of reasons, in terms of social responsibility and corporate responsibility.”
Clay Gordon, managing director of Primary Gold discussed reopening Tom’s Gully mine following a change of ownership from Crocodile Gold. He mentioned that although there have been several unsuccessful attempts to restart the mine in recent years; new studies indicate the project is commercially viable. “We completed some scoping studies on the project in 2012, and that gave us the encouragement that this mine can be brought back into production,” he said.
Improving the environment was a hot topic for Pacific Aluminium’s Greg Rashford as he discussed their Gove pipeline. “Overwhelmingly the pipeline is a good news story for the environment, because of the improvement in the greenhouse footprint at the refinery once we convert from fuel oil,” he said. “Pipelines are typically underground and out of sight, and so require very modest maintenance once they’re in place. To a large extent the area disturbed will be revegetated and rehabilitated, so whatever amenity was enjoyed before is able to be enjoyed after the pipeline project is complete.”
Brent Murdoch, general manager of Vista Gold – exhibitors at the event – congratulated the conference organisers for providing a “stimulating environment to share information about key projects, both operational and proposed, and services available in the region. The conference was well attended and created a positive atmosphere about the mining potential in the Katherine region and the benefits to the local community.”
We look forward to the 2nd Annual Katherine Regional Mining and Exploration Forum in 2014!
Mark your diary! The Katherine Regional Mining & Exploration Forum is set to return on the 28-29 May 2014. In the meantime check out the 7th Annual Mining the Territory Conference to be held in Darwin on September 10-12.
NT News, Wed 19 June 2013, pp 17, Community Update – Mt Todd, Vista Gold