Australia is the world’s largest lithium producer, as well as a top five producer of gold, iron ore, lead, zinc, and nickel. It also boasts the world’s largest uranium reserves and the fourth largest black coal reserves.
Mining has provided Australians with work opportunities as the industry develops. Read on to find out more about mining in Australia.
An introduction to mining in Australia
Australian mining is a significant contributor to the Australian economy. The industry provides an abundance of jobs and also contributes to the Australian gross domestic product (GDP). According to The Parliament of Australia, the mining industry now contributes 10% to the country’s GDP. Australia has about 350 active mines and generates large quantities of 19 minerals.
Bauxite (aluminium ore), iron ore, lithium, gold, lead, diamond, rare earth elements, uranium, and zinc are among the commodities that Australia produces in the largest quantities worldwide. Ilmenite, zircon, and rutile are other significant mineral sand deposits found in Australia.
Australia also generates significant amounts of black coal, manganese, antimony, nickel, silver, cobalt, copper, and tin, according to data from Geoscience Australia. Moreover, according to the Minerals Council of Australia: “Mining employment has trebled from an average of 83,900 in 2002 to 264,700 in 2021.”
Developments in the mining industry
According to the Minerals Council of Australia, in 2020, the median weekly wage for mining employees was $2,325, which was double the national average ($1,150). Approximately 84% of mining employees are employed on a permanent basis, either by mineral producers or by service contractors who frequently have business agreements.
In 2020, the median weekly salary for casual workers in the mining industry was $2,109, which was 42% more than the median salary for full-time permanent workers in all industries ($1,486).
Employing labour hire workers gives the industry flexibility, which is important because it allows larger swings in production. Employing labour enables mining businesses to:
- take advantage of the growth prospects presented by increases in commodity prices
- supplement skills in areas like upkeep, engineering, and rehabilitation, among others
- offer new employees a steady and growing career path.
This goes to show that the mining industry is a growing sector especially in terms of employment opportunities.
Automation technologies in mining
According to Australian Mining, Australian mine sites are reaping the rewards of automation. For original equipment manufacturers (OEM), no project has shown the potential of autonomous machinery more than the upgrade of drill rigs across BHP Iron Ore’s Pilbara mines in Western Australia.
The deployment has produced the cost savings, safety enhancement, and productivity increases that were anticipated. The sites using the automated drills have seen a 16% improvement in productivity, according to BHP.
The drills work during meal breaks, shift changes, meetings, and other activities that typically result in downtime, thus there has been a significant increase in equipment use in addition to the labour cost reductions.
Environmental safety through rehabilitation
Australian mining corporations are aware that responsible mining requires land restoration. The Australian mining sector understands its duty to support sustainable land use practices as a temporary land custodian.
Rehabilitating the effects of mining is important for maintaining community acceptance. Rehabilitation is carried out gradually over the life of a mine and planning for it begins well before mining even begins.
Over the past few decades, there has been a major improvement in the industry’s attitude about land restoration, which has been fueled by ongoing investment in land rehabilitation technology, changing corporate values, rising community expectations, and governmental regulation.
Although there has been significant progress, the industry is still working to enhance rehabilitation techniques to guarantee that mining is compatible with both present and future land uses.
Mine rehabilitation is heavily controlled, and as a requirement for licensing, businesses gradually rehabilitate mine land where it is practicable.
Based on data from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the mining industry in Australia uses over 500 petajoules of energy annually, or 10% of all energy used in Australia. Over the past ten years, consumption has climbed at a rate of 6% annually, mostly due to higher mining volumes. Diesel (41%), natural gas (33%), grid electricity (22%), and a mix of other refined fuels, coal, LPG, renewable energy sources, and biofuels make up the majority of the energy used by the mining industry.
As infrastructure improves and oil prices continue to fluctuate, the percentage contribution from diesel has decreased from 49% to 41% over the past ten years. Natural gas and grid power have essentially taken its place. The amount of energy needed to produce one tonne of product depends on definitions, location, mining type, and processing type.
How to safeguard health in the mining industry
One of the ways to safeguard health especially in the mining industry is to work with an occupational health service provider. An occupational health service provider offers a range of health testing services, including pre-employment medicals, medicals for asbestos, silica, mining, coal mining, and fitness for duty, among other things.
One of the requirements for safety in the industry is an Order 43 (formerly Order 41) coal board medical, commonly known as a NSW coal mine workers medical assessment. It is required of all employees and contractors operating on a coal mine site in New South Wales. The requirements of your medical examination may change, nevertheless, depending on your specific exposure group (SEG).
During your physical assessment, the following will be completed:
- anthropometrics (height, weight, body mass index or BMI)
- vision tests (near, distance, and colour)
- audiogram (screening assessment)
- spirometry assessment (lung function testing)
- cardiovascular examination (heart check, blood pressure, pulse)
- urinalysis for diabetes and disorders of the internal organs
- brief musculoskeletal assessment
- chest x-ray – completed to ILO (standard by a RANZCR approved radiologist)
- respirator fit test (dependent on site requirements and SEG).
Mining is still one of the country’s most established industries today. It is a significant contributor to the Australian economy accounting for approximately 10% of total GDP as of 2020.
The sector is heavily export-oriented, with little domestic processing. The outlook for Australia’s mineral exports is improving as the market continues to discover the latest trends on automation and workplace safety.