Minerals geophysics Holiday reflections I’m writing this on Boxing Day while on holiday in the Cederberg Mountains, Western Cape, South Africa, and I’m in a reflective mood. As well as South Africa, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in Chile and Argentina during the past year. Like Australia, all three countries have important mineral and/or energy resources sectors that contribute significantly to their respective economies. In contrast to Australia, where mining and energy exploitation often meet with well- publicised opposition, my impression is that these three countries view their resource sectors in a more positive light, and there is a greater appreciation of the contribution that the resources sectors make to their respective country’s economies. Chile, in particular, with its long history of copper and nitrate mining, proudly celebrates its mineral resources sector. Why this difference? The Australian resources sector by and large is very well run, takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously, and its continued success is vital to Australia’s economy. Yet, in the media, mining is too often depicted as wanton exploitation of the public-owned assets by greedy overseas corporations, often with the inference that all the minerals will soon be exhausted and we’ll be left with nothing but huge holes in the ground. The general public has little idea of how the mining industry functions. The low likelihood of success in mineral exploration, the sheer persistence and sometimes brilliant technology that is needed to find new deposits, and the huge amounts of risk capital involved in developing those deposits are all generally unknown. Even the contributions that the mining industry and related science and technology make to our everyday lives (just about everything we use!) go largely unacknowledged. It strikes me as a bit rich to criticise mining while blithely enjoying all the benefits that mining brings. Does it really matter that the mining industry suffers from bad press? Well, yes it does. University graduate numbers are dropping (particularly in mining engineering) as the resources sector is increasingly seen as a less desirable career option. Australia is no longer a net exporter of geoscience professionals to the world. Access to land for exploration and mining is becoming increasingly difficult, both through an increase in governmental regulatory controls and in the face of well-publicised public opposition; some states have taken to the complete banning of exploration for some commodities in designated areas. Australia is at risk of being seen as a less desirable place to explore for minerals and invest in resource development. How did this happen? Perhaps the mining industry itself must share some of the blame. There’s been good co-operation between the resources industry and tertiary institutions in educating geoscientists and in designing and funding industry-specific research. But, as an industry, we’ve done little to educate and inform the general public directly, instead relying on the media to tell our stories. In popular entertainment, mining suffers from a dreadful image: if we’re not mining a planet to destruction with slave labour, mad geoscientists are poisoning the ground water with ill- advised exploitation. But, to my mind, the stand-out omission by the mining industry is in the education of the educators and through them, the children. Arguably, the image of the mining industry currently presented in the education program is not balanced. Listening to my grandchildren, it’s clear that their educators have a negative and uninformed view of mining. I appreciate that any contribution to education by the mining industry would be viewed with deep suspicion in some quarters, but surely that should not be a barrier to education? And while we’re at it, how about a mining industry-financed program to teach children how to think, rather than what to think, i.e., cause and effect, two sides to an argument, the importance of scientific evidence, the need to research and verify, etc. I’ve got a rather different take on the future of the mining and exploration industry, more in tune with modern attitudes, which I plan to elaborate on in the April issue of Preview. And finally, something to celebrate. The excitement generated by Rio’s apparent base metal exploration success in Western Australia, and by BHP’s recent stunning copper intersections on the Stuart Shelf in South Australia, could herald renewed interest in mineral exploration in Australia. Surely, it’s these stories of technical brilliance and perseverance that we should be telling to as wide an audience as possible? Terry Harvey Associate Editor for Minerals geophysics terry.v.harvey@glencore.com.au 26 PREVIEW FEBRUARY 2019 Minerals geophysics