House of Assembly: Thursday, March 09, 2023


Resources Sector

Mr HUGHES (Giles) (14:59): I certainly have. My question is to the Minister for Energy and Mining. Can the minister update the house on the trade performance of South Australia's resources sector? I would appreciate it if he made no mention of Liverpool and Man United.

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS (West Torrens—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Minister for Energy and Mining) (14:59): Yes, 7-0 is a humiliating loss. I don't want to have to put the member through any more of that than he has to, other than to say I don't think anyone since 1932 has seen a team capitulate so appallingly to another side—other than, perhaps, at the 2022 election.

South Australian copper products are once again at the top spot for South Australian exports of goods to overseas markets. Stats from the ABS have copper product exports reaching $2.44 billion in January of this calendar year. That is an astonishing figure that marks a rise of almost 65 per cent over the previous 12 months, and 11 months of consecutive improvement for copper export figures since March 2022. That is a remarkable number.

What we perhaps see is a correlation of improved overseas trade performances with the confidence being restored to an industry on 19 March of last year, and that the South Australian government is wholeheartedly supportive of our resources industry here in South Australia. The state's resources inventory of critical minerals is increasingly in demand to support the global transition to a decarbonised future. Copper is the key to that decarbonised future.

Australia is home to the second-largest reserve of copper resources in the world, and South Australia hosts the majority share: an incredible 69 per cent of Australia's copper resource is here in this state. Wind turbines, electric vehicles, power cables, energy-efficient generators, motors, transformers and renewable energy production systems all rely on copper. Copper production in Olympic Dam, Carrapateena and Prominent Hill and exports continue to underpin the resource sector as a major pillar of the state's economy.

Much of our copper resource is not yet developed, which presents opportunity. But first, it is crucial that we debunk the myth that suggests that more renewables will mean the end of mining. The transition to renewable energy does not mean an end to mining; it means more mining. We need more critical minerals, more rare earths. We need to get these resources to be used to decarbonise our future. Our resource inventory gives us the opportunity to add complexity to South Australia's economy and, through our growing exports, assist other countries in their transition to low-carbon economies to meet their Paris treaty obligations.

It's not just copper—other critical minerals present fantastic opportunities, such as graphite, which is a key component in battery systems, both domestic and grid scale. Capitalising on opportunities for critical minerals in the emerging battery supply chain and other emerging supply chains will require investment in extracting the mineral deposits we have already identified, and also additional investment in exploration to target those critical minerals still to be discovered across our vast landscape. That's why it's important that we see investment grow. It's encouraging that we are already seeing breaking records: 2022 saw South Australia's highest expenditure on mineral exploration in the past decade, reaching $165.4 million.

The growth we're already seeing includes advanced-stage copper exploration and programs for other critical minerals, including rare earth elements, graphite, iron ore and zircon, across the state. I think we all look forward to our resource exports growing and seeing South Australia capitalise on the decarbonisation program around the world, and us becoming the centre of not just renewable energy but the resources that help in that decarbonisation.