World Mining Congress 2023: the first ever held in Australia

By Lanre-Peter Elufisan
More than 3,500 participants from 70 countries gathered in Brisbane, to discuss issues critical to the mining industry's work towards Net Zero

Last week showcased the mining industry's relevance to the global economy as thousands of participants gathered in Brisbane, Australia, for the 26th World Mining Congress held from June 26-29, 2023, marking the first time Australia hosted the global event. 

Dr. Hua Guo, the congress chair, acknowledged Australia's strong position in mining at the event's opening, saying, "It's about time you got here." The event saw more than 3,000 delegates from 70 countries gather in Brisbane.

This included government, corporates, researchers, educators, and suppliers to discuss vital issues which will see the mining industry work towards Net Zero. Topics covered included NASA's plan to mine on the moon, using artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous vehicles, and the most mined mineral on earth, sand.

Space mining: NASA looks to quantify lunar resources of commercial interest

Speaking at the event, Mike Henry, the Chief Executive Officer of BHP, warned that too much government protectionism in global critical minerals supply chains could undermine climate change efforts. Slamming the Queensland government for hiking coal royalties.

He said, "In this case, both the outcome and the process have meant that we (BHP) have opportunities to invest for better returns and lower risk elsewhere around the world, as well as in Australian states like Western Australia and South Australia. We will not be investing any further growth dollars in Queensland under the current conditions."

Although, Mr. Henry's speech came just an hour after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the Australian government's $245 million Critical Mineral Strategy.

Discussing at the WMC, Gerald Sanders, a NASA scientist, revealed that the US space agency (NASA) is looking to operate a pilot processing plant for lunar resources by 2032 as part of its planned Artemis missions, which will also take the first woman and first person of colour to the earth's natural satellite. He added that NASA would initially look to quantify potential resources, including energy, water, and lunar soil, to attract commercial investment.

Sanders said exploring for minerals and metals, including iron ore and rare earth, and planning a Mars trip would come later. Regardless of when it comes, we know space mining is no longer a tale of fiction. 

A need for a net zero industry

Decarbonisation was also a central theme during the four days event, as businesses were visibly excited to show off their green efforts. In opening the event, the former chief executive of Anglo America, Mark Cutifani, argued that the industry needed more to demonstrate its emission reduction work and global value. 

"For an industry that supports 45 percent of global economic activity on the planet, we are notoriously bad communicators. If we want a different outcome in terms of regulation and policy framework, we need to get off our bums and educate and promote the facts around how the world works and what we need to do to create a sustainable world," he said. 

Also speaking at the congress, Australia's Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers spoke about mining's place in the low-carbon world order, saying, "The role of critical minerals in driving us towards net zero is a generational, defining opportunity for our country, for our state, and for your sector. "It's one we cannot afford to miss."

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