South Australia takes Copper to the World
South Australia has stamped its authority as a rising copper powerhouse with the hosting of a highly successful international Copper to the World conference on 27 June.
High-calibre international copper experts from Chile and the United Kingdom joined a line-up of well-regarded speakers from Australia’s copper industry, academia and government at the inaugural conference held in Adelaide.
As they delved into trends, opportunities and developments across the copper value chain, speakers urged the capacity crowd of more than 270 to stretch their thinking about ways to meet rising demand for copper.
Setting the positive tone for the conference theme, South Australian Treasurer and Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Tom Koutsantonis, outlined the progress of a wide range of government initiatives that support the state’s ambitious Copper Strategy. With vast copper resources, South Australia aims to triple copper production to one million tonnes per annum by 2030, which would make it a leading contributor to Australia becoming the world’s third largest copper producer.
Throughout the day mineral analysts and economists drove home the pressing requirement to deliver Copper to the World to meet rising demand – productively.
Opening key note speaker, UK-based CRU Director for Copper Strategy and Research, Vanessa Davidson, detailed demand and supply trends, flagging a projected global copper deficit that will emerge from 2020, bringing with it an improvement to producer margins.
The conference featured a number of senior policy and economic representatives from Chile, the world’s leading copper producer and a formal MOU partner with the South Australian Government in copper exploration and industry development. They told delegates about the ongoing drive for productivity, and the urgent need for collaboration and innovation to push through big improvements across the value chain.
In the closing session, MinEx Consulting’s MD, Richard Schodde, said ongoing growth in demand meant miners would need to produce as much copper in the next 26 years (689 million tonnes) as had been produced in all history to date.
He added that South Australia was the place to come for copper – with the success rate for finding copper deposits over the past two decades proving to be double the world average.
On the question of what the cash-strapped explorers can do to maximise their opportunity, Richard remarked: ‘Now is an excellent time to explore with previous records showing that people get the best return on investment coming out of the cycle’. With this in mind, he urged companies to assemble their best prospects, tell their story and take advantage of improving conditions in the ASX for capital raisings.
Unlocking South Australia’s copper potential and long-life assets
South Australia’s mineral fertility for the red metal and long-life mining assets were also reinforced in a number of government, academic and company presentations.
Director of the Geological Survey of South Australia, Dr Steve Hill, shared early results from the $20 million PACE Copper initiative, which is designed to stimulate exploration through unprecedented geophysical surveys and drilling programs. PACE Copper has already played a crucial role in supporting exploration in the state through the industry downturn and helped attract and retain a current field of 130 companies that are spending $20 million to explore for copper.
The Geological Survey collaborates with Geoscience Australia and other national research partners, who updated delegates on new approaches to see through the earth’s surface in the hunt for ore bodies.
The state’s two largest copper miners, BHP and OZ Minerals, also shared their plans for new mine developments.
BHP’s Olympic Dam General Manager Mine, Troy Wilson, took the floor by surprise with an update on Olympic Dam’s massive expansion into the new Southern Mine Area, which represents around 70 per cent of the resource footprint. While news of the development has flown under the radar, Troy said the development of the Southern Mine Area had involved a quarter of a billion dollar investment since 2015 and was on par with five new standalone mines. BHP has recently announced a recruitment drive of 350 employees.
OZ Minerals MD, Andrew Cole, said South Australia’s competitive advantages were a stable, low-risk jurisdiction and rich natural endowment of copper. The state hosts nearly 70% of Australia’s economic demonstrated copper resource. OZ Minerals, which relocated its head office to Adelaide in 2015, is extending the life of its Prominent Hill Mine and recently submitted a mining lease application for the Carrapateena Project. The company has achieved success in its development of a premium concentrate treatment plant.
A much-talked about address was delivered on behalf of the Kokatha Aboriginal Corporation by its treasurer, Khatija Thomas, a lawyer by profession. She walked delegates through the dynamics of forming a mutual participatory partnership model between the Kokatha Aboriginal Corporation and OZ Minerals for the Carrapateena Project. The partnership is truly about the co-design of solutions – and was recognised with a Premier’s Community Excellence Award in Mining and Energy in May 2017.
Hillgrove Resources operates the Kanmantoo copper mine in the Adelaide Hills and Chief Executive, Steve McClare, shared the many ways the company seeks to build durable relationships and ‘be the best neighbour it can be’. It works with the Kanmantoo local community consultative committee on its efforts to minimise the mine’s environmental footprint and deliver economic, social and environmental benefits. A major program to restore the region’s native remnant vegetation in the broader district will leave a positive environmental legacy beyond the life of the mine.
The scientific understanding of the drivers behind achieving social acceptance for mining was ably delivered by Kieren Moffat, senior research scientist with CSIRO Mineral Resources, and founder of Reflexivity, a social performance data service. Kieren showed the main pathways to building trust came from perceptions of procedural fairness during a company’s dealings with community, and the strength of relationships, which were enhanced by meaningful, quality interactions.
Copper Strategy gathers momentum
Drilling into how South Australia will leverage its rich copper endowment, the Department of the Premier and Cabinet’s Deputy Chief Executive, Dr Paul Heithersay, elaborated on the Copper Strategy’s progress in supporting discovery, innovation and engagement. He said the Copper Strategy had gathered momentum and firmly placed South Australia’s copper sector on an upward trajectory. Projects supported through the Mining and Petroleum Services Centre of Excellence had delivered impressive innovations to leverage opportunity and productivity across the METS sector, while Copper Strategy Success workshops had enhanced industry skills and knowledge.
CSIRO’s Director of Mineral Resources, Jonathan Law, picked up on the positive sentiment at the conference, remarking that South Australia ‘has a sense of purpose in getting things done to make its copper sector successful’. While speaking favourably about Australia’s role in global innovation, he cautioned that more could be done to improve the rate of conversion of technologies towards commercialisation.
President of SACOME, Terry Burgess, released details about South Australia’s new Copper Development Road Map, a vital ingredient to building the state’s copper industry. This sets out a coordinated approach to progress priority technology and research activities. Terry, who also chairs the Tonsley Project Steering Committee, shared his passion to grow a Copper Technology Hub at Tonsley, a fast-developing innovation district 10 km south of Adelaide’s CBD.
Bornite signifies copper connection
With Copper to the World reinforcing the significance of copper to South Australia’s past and future prosperity, the South Australian Government formally unveiled bornite, a distinctive purple and blue copper mineral, as the official state mineral emblem.
A strikingly beautiful bornite specimen found at Olympic Dam can be seen at the South Australian Museum’s exhibit ‘Copper: A richly South Australian resource’ that tells the important story of South Australian copper – a free display until the end of July 2017.
Heritage listing for Burra and Moonta mines
Further signifying South Australia’s long association with copper mining is the addition of the historic Burra and Moonta mines to the National Heritage List in May 2017.
Their listing recognises the outstanding heritage significance of the Burra and Moonta mines and these town’s rich links to Cornish mining history, joining six other sites across the state already included on the prestigious list.
The federal government’s announcement that the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula towns had been added to the National Heritage List in May, tied in with a visit to South Australia by heritage chairs and officials from Australia and New Zealand. The heritage listing also acknowledges the role these towns in particular played in the foundation of South Australia to the expansion of industry, technological change and wealth which transformed the world during the 1700s and 1800s. Burra and Moonta mines are Australia’s representatives of the international spread of Cornish hard-rock mining technology.
As well as state and federal governments, local branches of the National Trust, the Burra History Group and the Goyder and Copper Coast Councils have worked tirelessly over eight-plus years to help the listing become a reality.
- Read the news release on the Premier's website
- Read more about it in the Government Notices Gazette (Cth)
– Grace Taylor and the Copper Strategy team