As we start to move towards the Christmas holiday period, it seems like an apt time to reflect on what has happened in 2021.
While this year hasn’t had the initial shock of a once-in-a-generation pandemic and the lengthy initial lockdown period that we encountered in 2020, COVID-19 has been an ever-present factor in all that we do. And it certainly hasn’t been the only thing keeping WA’s mining and resources sector busy.
From a production standpoint, 2021 has been an enormously successful year. The 2020-21 financial year delivered record petroleum and minerals sales of $210 billion, a new benchmark for employment in the sector (more than 149,000 people) and also royalty contributions to the State Government of more than $12.7 billion (the State’s single biggest revenue stream).
Those production levels are entirely down to the skills, dedication and sacrifice of our workforce. While I noted that COVID interruptions haven’t been as intense as last year, there have still been three periods of lockdowns and restrictions, which will have caused a portion of our workers to extend swings on site and juggle their shifts. On the behalf of CME and its member companies, I’d like to thank each and every one of our workers for what they have helped deliver for the benefit of so many people in WA.
From a policy perspective, it’s been an extremely productive year.
The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021 has now been introduced into Parliament and has already passed the Lower House. CME has publicly welcomed the introduction of the Bill, which will replace an outdated existing act from 1972 and which has been four years in the making, with numerous rounds of consultation with key stakeholders.
This year has also seen passage of WA’s new Work, Health and Safety legislation, including the development of mining-specific and dedicated WHS regulations (something CME has long advocated for), along with a landmark agreement between State and Federal governments on bilateral agreements that would significantly streamline environmental approval processes.
We were also very excited to be able to launch our Resourceful Mind program in partnership with Lifeline WA, an innovative and collaborative project that demonstrates how much our sector values good mental health outcomes for its workforce. The importance of mental health was already front of mind for CME and its member companies but the pressures of COVID-19 have served to further reinforce that understanding.
Of course, there have been challenges throughout 2021 as well.
One of the biggest has been the Parliamentary Inquiry Into Sexual Harassment Against Women in the FIFO Mining Industry. This type of unacceptable behaviour is clearly an issue our sector must address and CME and its member companies have participated fully in the Inquiry and been open and transparent about the need for change and improvement going forward.
Skills pressures continue to be a challenge for mining and resources operations around WA, particularly in light of border restrictions associated with COVID-19. As always, our sector has shown a strong ability to adapt to whatever circumstances it is faced with, but as a skills shortage report released by CME in June outlined, access to wider labour markets will be needed for WA to capitalise fully on the many mining and resources opportunities in front of it in the next few years.
Naturally, COVID-19 continues to be a challenge for all industries in WA, including our own. I’m proud of the way the sector and its workforce have adjusted to what has been a fluid landscape over the past two years, and also provided significant and valuable support to the rollout of WA’s COVID-19 vaccination program. High community vaccination rates will be a key in months to come to eventually return to something like “normal life” and the type of people movement that we have been previously used to.
Highlights for me over the course of 2021 have included our annual Women In Resources Awards, which again attracted a crowd of 1000 people and this year resulted in two national WIRA winners – Laura Allen and Alison Van Lent, both of Woodside.
From a CME perspective, it was also exciting to be part of the maiden journey of the Royal Flying Doctors Service’s newest aircraft, the Wings of WA, in October. The plane carries the CME logo to reflect the fundraising efforts of member companies, who contributed millions of dollars towards its purchase through the COVID-19 Community Support Initiative we launched last year. The RFDS has also launched its Flights For Life Appeal in partnership with Lifeline WA and I’d encourage member companies to consider contributing to it.
CME launched a new office in Bunbury earlier this year and recently established for the first time a Pilbara-based office in Port Hedland.
Just last week, we had an excellent turnout from our sector – both from the CME team and member companies – at a lunchtime event raising awareness about issues associated with family and domestic violence.
As I sign off ahead of the upcoming holidays, I’d like to wish our member companies and all of their workers a safe and enjoyable festive period.
Safety is at the heart of everything that WA mining and resources operations do on a daily basis and at this time of year – with more people than normal out and about on the roads – it should be something that’s foremost in the broader community’s minds as well.
Take care of yourselves and each other, and I look forward to catching up in 2022.