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Could we be world’s next mining mecca?

JS Jacques, Rio Tinto

Australia can become the next global mining ‘mecca’ according to the boss of a multinational mining group.

Our nation could make more of its already strong position says Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques, because Australia has a unique opportunity to become the “epicentre” of the global mining industry.

“Australia could and should be the global Mecca of mining technology in the same way the US is on [the] internet, smart phones, software, and space exploration,” Jacques recently told the Melbourne Mining Club.

“We need to harness a unified effort of business, government, investment capital and universities.”

However, before this can happen the mining sector will need to lift its productivity and embrace innovation and better policies.

“Innovation is not just about high-tech new industries – miners innovate as well. And it is not only about big bang stuff. Innovation can be about day-to-day improvement and productivity,” Jacques says.

“At Rio, we see productivity as the key driver of margin performance for the industry in the years to come.”

The volatile political climate in the United States and United Kingdom provides an opportunity for Australia to become a global financial centre for mining, but more needs to be done to attract investment in the country.

“As the world becomes more protectionist, countries look to shut their borders and turn inwards, Australia could buck the trend,” Jacques says.

“Australia could form alliances and partnerships with financial markets in Singapore or Hong Kong. But if Australia wants to do this it must become more attractive as an investment destination for business – which means stable policy, stable tax settings, and incentives for companies to set-up shop and stay.”

The latest McKinsey research shows the nation’s mining industry is 28 per cent more productive than 10 years ago.

Jacques praises the pioneering spirit of Western Australians who helped develop the Pilbara region half a century ago, and formed partnerships with Asian countries.

“It is clear that forming new partnerships can deliver significant value, and indeed, sometimes your customers can be your best equity partners,” he says.

“Australia could, once again, be at the forefront of these types of new partnering opportunities.”

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