It is in everyone’s interests that the resources industry emerges from the COVID-19 crisis strongly, Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA director Robert Carruthers told a recent CEDA panel discussion.
“It’s important to continue to focus on health and safety and business continuity across the board and having an eye to the future; looking over the horizon and making sure we can seize the opportunities that will come on the other side of this for a rapid recovery and it’s the resource sector that will be in the forefront of that,” Mr Carruthers said in the Committee for Economic Development of Australia livestreamed event on how the resources industry was managing the COVID-19 crisis.
Mr Carruthers, the chamber’s Policy and Advocacy Director, was joined by Lynas Corporation Chief Executive and Managing Director Amanda Lacaze and Neometals Chief Executive and Managing Director Christopher Reed.
For Ms Lacaze, the one certainty emerging from the COVID-19 crisis is uncertainty.
“I don’t think any of us know what is going to happen in any of the areas of the economy coming out,” Ms Lacaze said.
“I might be a multi-billionaire if I knew, but I don’t. But what I do know is that it will not be what I expect, so therefore I need to create muscle in the organisation and operating platform which gives us room to be able to respond to changes in market conditions.”
“The Australian resources sector is uniquely prepared to implement relevant measures. Health and safety are already top priorities in our industry.
“At Lynas we have management, support functions, and project teams working from home.
“The leadership team is experienced in working as a distributed team, so this has not been a challenge.
“Of course, there will be some changes and we will think why didn’t we do that before and so those changes will remain after the crisis passes.”
She said the crisis would raise questions about the benefits of globalisation and of pursuing more value-added industry in Australia, rather than exporting resources for others to add economic value.
For Mr Carruthers, it felt like “we are getting to the end of the beginning in terms of that urgent rapid response and we’re in the new abnormal”.
“As an industry we are working alongside government,” he said. “That is the critical point. That we just don’t go back to our normal, competitive instincts, that we do maintain that level of collegiality; that we do look at the lessons learned.
“While we have just got critical workforces on site at the moment and that will be the new abnormal for a period of time, the other side of that there will be a huge amount of non-essential shut down maintenance that has been deferred; there will be large capital projects that have slowed down or ready for investment decisions to be made.”
Mr Reed said government and local agencies could assist the sector by recognising and taking account of how restrictions were affecting exploration activities.