Australian Post-world War Ⅱ Environmental Management in Energy and Mineral Resources Industries

Author:Huang Li

Supervisor:hou min yue


Degree Year:2018





As one of essential investments of material production,natural resources(mainly referring to minerals and energy resources)have been regarded as the material fundamental of the national economic development.Thus it stands to reason that natural resources have played crucial parts in national economic growth.Australia is mineral rich,with a great diversity of deposits.As one of the world’s leading energy and mineral resources nations,it has advanced substantially and remained one of the developed countries over the past decades.The resources industry is one of the key pillars of its economy,accounting for more than 6 percent of its GDP.What makes Australia uniquely distinguished is that on the one hand,the Australian energy and mineral resources industry has grown dramatically,and on the other hand,Australia has achieved a relatively sustainable development and its landscape shows something that Australians are exceedingly proud of:Australia’s spectacular,beautiful and unique natural environments.The rainforests of north-eastern Australia contain the world’s most ancient flowering plants and are among the world’s most bio-diverse ecosystems.By contrast,some other countries,also abundant in diverse resources,have availed their economic advancement at the expense of the virtuous environment.This contrast justifies the study on how Australia achieves a balance between the development of its resources industry and its environment.The mining industry plays a major role in Australia’s economy,producing over one-third of the value of its export earnings.Mining is a cyclical industry,driven by international markets;the prices of minerals and costs of production remain key factors in the economics of deposits.Since the mid-1950s the considerations of environmental management have been increasingly important in determining the competitiveness and viability of mining projects.This dissertation studies on the related environment management in Australia’s energy and mineral resources industry after WWT.The whole process has been divided into several periods,presenting each phase’s characteristics of Australia’s energy and mineral resources industry together with the relevant environment managements in the industry.Generally,Australia’s mining industry starts from the 1850s gold rush,then experiences its prosperities and downturns afterwards,and advances to an ecologically sustainable industry in the new century.In detail,during its first developing phase(early period of exploration up to about mid-20~thh century),Australia’s mining industry had advanced substantially and Australia’public had much been fascinated by mineral booms,for the supply of raw materials necessary in the provision of infrastructure,services and goods for national development.However,the early practices in Australia’s energy and mineral resources industry had been responsible for some severe local impacts on environment.These impacts,arising from exploration,mining and mineral processing activities,had involved direct clearance of vegetation(and faunal habitat),on-and off-site impacts of acid mine drainage from waste rock dumps,tailings storage facilities and open pits,and poor rehabilitation practices.What a pity is that in this long period,the mining related environmental issues had usually been turned a blind eye to.The phase from 1950s to 1980s had witnessed both the emergence of a world class mining industry and the modern environment movement in Australia.Environmental issues became the center of major public controversies during this period,and governments were forced to play a much bigger role in trying to resolve them.Early in the 1970s,state governments began to establish a variety of procedures for dealing with at least some of the issues.The preparation and submission of some form of Environmental Impact Statement(EIS)became an important part of the procedure,which was necessary before approval could be obtained to go ahead with projects.After these measures and efforts,some adverse impacts from mining had been avoided or treated.However,due to the fact that some of the environmental approval procedures were too complex and time-consuming and that many of them were hard to get approved,the efficiency of starting a new mining project has been greatly influenced.Since the 1990s,both the Australia’s mining industry and its environment protection gradually grew to be internationalized.Overseas mineral exploration and mining investment by Australian mining companies have increased dramatically,so has the proportion of total exploration spending by mining companies overseas.In addition,apart from those traditional foreign export destinations such as Canada,the United States and Western Europe,Australian mining companies begin to branch their presence in the new markets such as Asia Pacific region,Africa,South America and Eastern Europe in the past decade.Meanwhile,much progress has been made in promoting sound environmental practices within the mining industry,and in incorporating the principles of sustainable development into environmental and mining legislation in Australia.The 1992 National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development,together with the reports on its implementation,represents a nationwide commitment to translate the concept of sustainable development into one of the national objectives and policy directions.In recent decades,Australia’s mining industry has developed advanced capabilities in environmental management as well as innovative approaches to community engagement and development.It has enjoyed a reputation as a world leader in the development of a sustainable mining.The mining firms in Australia are far more competitive than those in other countries across the whole chain of the industry,including exploration,engineering,minerals processing,environmental management,mine safety,research and development as well as education and training.Tracing the history of Australia’s energy and mineral resources industry and its related environmental management,the thesis concludes that the two share almost the same development pace and have always interacted with each other.When the environmental management gets improved,the efficiency of mining industry tends to be prompted,because a sound environmental management could stimulate the innovation of mining technologies and also gain the public’s support to the industry.In addition,the interaction of the two could finally grow into a model of an ecologically sustainable mining industry.To achieve an ecologically sustainable mining industry,a mixture of regulatory,economic and voluntary instruments should be established,with voluntary measures and agreement between governments,mining companies and community groups playing a central part.Government set regulatory legislations,provide the good governance on the environment;companies abide by the mining principles and improve their mining technologies,alleviating adverse impact on the environment;and communities and the public can offer their assessments on mining project approvals,monitoring mining companies’fulfillment with the related environmental management regulations and initiatives.