Resourcing the future: Using foresight in resource governance

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Geoforum, 2013, 44 pp. 316 - 328
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Australia is a major supplier of minerals globally, but the country's ability to meet both projections for future demand and sustainability goals is hampered by a range of environmental and social issues associated with traditional modes of minerals production. At a time when society's expectations for the environmental and social performance of companies are becoming more stringent, mineral production in Australia has become more difficult and expensive - issues that are often disguised by (and overlooked as a result of) high resource prices and an outwardly buoyant economy. Difficulty and expense are characterised not by the absence of resources, but by declining ore grades, substantially increasing mine waste, rising energy consumption, and falling multi-factor productivity. Together, social changes and production challenges are reinforcing the recognition that business as usual cannot deliver on the sustainability imperative. Technological development has been an important focus in seeking to address many of the challenges facing the Australian minerals industry, but this alone has not been adequate, and may not be the panacea of the future. Research exploring the future of minerals production and its implications for society and the economy must be accompanied by foresight into the long-term strategic challenges, future scenarios, social, economic and regional contexts where these implications will play out.This paper documents how foresight methods were used to facilitate a conversation between mining industry stakeholders and experts on the future of the industry in Australia, and to develop a shared vision of the future and recommendations for how to achieve a sustainable mining industry and one which contributes to a sustainable Australian economy. We articulate the implications of sustainability for the mining sector in Australia with respect to a vision to 2040, and discuss mechanisms to secure long-term national benefit for Australia from its finite mineral resources. We demonstrate that realising benefits from a mineral endowment over several decades requires considered and forward-looking resource governance, including a National Minerals Strategy. It should be characterised by innovative policy decisions and business models that engage communities, government and the private sector in not only the rhetoric, but also the business of sustainability. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
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