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We won't abandon miners: Koutsantonis

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Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis has promised the mining industry the State Government will stick by it through the current downward slide in commodities prices.

Koutsantonis told the “Paydirt” SA Resources and Energy Investment Conference today that miners faced challenging times ahead, but the government would continue to back the industry.

“Quite frankly, the pathway ahead is challenging,” Koutsantonis said.

“There is not a person in this room who isn’t aware of the dramatic fall in commodity prices, in particular iron ore and oil.

“Yet it is the work we do now that will determine the scale of our success when the inevitable upswing gathers pace. The South Australian Government won’t be abandoning you during this cyclical downturn.

“Instead, we will continue to work on the strategic planning that is required to ensure South Australia takes its rightful place among the titans of mining.”

The comments come only a few weeks after Koutsantonis poured cold water on long-mooted plans for a deep sea port to service iron ore mines on Eyre Peninsula.

InDaily reported in March that the mining industry was seeking a “please explain” from the Government over the minister’s comment.

Koutsantonis told Parliament that: “We want to make sure that before we invest taxpayers’ money into a brand new deep sea port, those commodities actually have a market to go to.

“The reality is that commodity prices are down, and that is a factor of international prices dropping around the globe. Prices for copper have dropped, prices for iron ore have dropped, and prices for oil have dropped.”

Today, the minister was more upbeat about the potential for growth, telling an industry audience that South Australia had “a suite of advanced copper and iron ore projects that will prosper with further investment”.

He was particularly vocal about the potential for increasing copper output from SA – an area in which he said we must set an ambitious new target to “propel not only South Australia, but Australia, into the top echelons of the world’s copper-producing nations”.

“Australia has the second largest economic demonstrated resources of copper at 13 per cent after Chile’s 28 per cent. Of the national total, SA hosts 68 per cent.

“And yet while Chile produces more than 5.8 million tonnes of copper a year, South Australia annually produces just 300,000 tonnes.

“I believe we can and we must do much better.”

He said he had invited the industry to attend a copper “summit” in early May to develop a strategy to encourage international participation in exploration and production, and look at ways to boost research efforts to improve the quality of the state’s copper resource.

Koutsantonis also announced today the next round of grants under the Plan for Accelerating Exploration (PACE).

The scheme will provide $2 million in grants to 27 resource exploration projects across South Australia to “stimulate the next crop of greenfield discoveries and help share in the financial and technical risk of exploration”.

The co-funded grants will draw an estimated additional spend of $4.9 million from the explorers.

– InDaily

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