In giving the keynote address on the morning of day one of the Africa Downunder Conference in Perth, Mr Hegarty painted a positive future for the sector based on what he described as unbridled demand driven by the global energy transition.
And it’s not just demand predictions around emerging commodities like lithium and cobalt, but also fresh demand for more traditional commodities like nickel and copper.
In fact, Mr Hegarty told delegates, “You want to be just about as long and strong as you can be in good quality copper”.
He said it was important to note that the bump in demand was not going to be a sprint that would be over in 100 metres, but the bump in demand would continue for a long time.
However, the issue on the horizon was not on the demand side, but on the supply side where most participants at Africa Downunder were engaged.
Mr Hegarty pointed to permitting timelines getting longer as a major impediment and a focus from governments on shortening those times was required to get projects into production before the squeeze from demand got worse.
Speaking in the same session of the conference, Commonwealth Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts said the great representation at the event from countries across Africa and many Australian businesses said volumes about the ties the two continents already shared.
“The Australian Government has not always engaged with African countries as deeply or as knowledgeably as we could. This has been to our detriment,” Assistant Minister Watts said.
“Later this year I plan to visit West Africa where I plan to meet with the Ghanaian and Nigerian governments and open the 2022 edition of the West Africa Mining Security Conference in Accra.
“African nations are important partners, and the Australian Government wants to expand our engagement and cooperation in a range of fields, including though social connections, in trade, investment and security collaboration.”
Assistant Minister Watts added that another global challenge was climate change, which he said was already disproportionality affecting African countries.
“The Australian Government will work with our African partners on facing and responding to the challenges of climate change, including food insecurity and energy transition,” he said.
“The Australian mining industry has a vital role to play in meeting growing energy transition demands. Australian companies are world leaders in the mining of critical minerals like cobalt, lithium and silicone – all essential in technologies we need for a sustainable future.”