Forum identifies research opportunities in mining sector

August 26, 2011

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Murdoch University has delivered a rapid response to the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s Relationship with the Countries of Africa, bringing together leading industry, academia and government experts within the mining sector for an intense research forum on 30 August.

Released in June 2011, the Parliamentary report recognised a strong tradition of collaborative research activities between Australia and Africa across a broad array of scientific and social areas.

It also identified the need to facilitate contacts between mining sector companies, non-government organisations and the broader private sector who are able to assist them in creating and executing corporate social responsibility policies.

The University has seized the opportunity presented by next week’s Africa Downunder conference – being held in Perth from 31 August to 2 September – to host a satellite research forum that will identify further research and knowledge-sharing opportunities.

Forum Chair David Doepel says the forum has attracted about 150 participants, including more than 40 African nationals and several high-level African government ministers who are in Perth to attend Africa Downunder.

Others are specialists in a wide range of related fields including mining, counter-terrorism, politics, ecology, governance, land law, finance, aid and agriculture.

David said Africa Downunder has been running for seven consecutive years but this is the first time a research forum has been hosted in conjunction with the conference.

“By opening up a dialogue between industry, academia and government we hope to gain a clear picture of what research is required to help the African nations and Australia benefit from the significant investment in mining,” David said.

“We are very appreciative of the way in which Africa Downunder has embraced this initiative and allowed us to leverage the opportunity presented by this world-class conference.”

David said traditionally Africa has been very strong in gold and diamonds but is currently experiencing the same boom conditions that are present in Australia, with all metals and energy resources in high demand.

One of the three panel discussions at the forum – featuring Murdoch’s Crop and Plant Research Institute Director, Professor John Howieson – will explore how infrastructure developments for mining such as rail, road or port upgrades can be leveraged to improve the nation’s agricultural supply chain.

“Africa grows a lot of food but an enormous amount of this – in many cases greater than 50 per cent – is lost before it reaches the people,” David explained.

“Through research on post-harvest quality, we can not only significantly increase local supply but also open up opportunities for these countries to build export capability.”

The second panel discussion will explore recent changes to Western Australia’s mine closure protocols and their applicability to African ventures.

Murdoch’s Land Management Group Director, Professor Richard Bell, will join this panel to discuss closure planning and environmental sustainability, drawing on the University’s decades of experience in mining rehabilitation in Western Australia.

“If we can help a country set up its regulations based on our own experiences and knowledge, then the companies who have worked under our own legislation will be well-placed to work in that environment,” David said.

Murdoch’s Security, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Professor Samuel Makinda will join the third panel discussion focusing on social responsibility in the mining sector in developing countries.

“Australia’s mining industry is much more than just exporting ore,” David said.

“We have learned an enormous amount about extractive industries, environmental needs and social licence to operate, and if we can export that knowledge to help others do it well then we can make a real difference and realise additional economic benefit for Australia.”

For more information on the forum – or to register interest in attending – email david@doepel.com.

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