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AUSTRALIANS NEED TO BE MINDFULL THAT THEY ARE PRICING THEMSELVES OUT OF THE MARKET IN THE MINING INDUSTRY

AUSTRALIANS ARE PRICING THEMSELVES OUT OF THE MINING INDUSTRY SAYS CHIEF

MINING CHIEFS RIO TINTO IMAGE www.www-globalcomodities.com

Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh, Kestrel Mine general manager operations John Coughlan and Energy chief executive Harry Kenyon-Slaney inspect the longwall at Kestrel Mine. Source: Supplied

RIO Tinto has fired a warning at mining unions telling them they are in danger of pricing themselves out of jobs that can or will eventually be done by robots.

Managing director Sam Walsh also said the company was still working under the belief that the mining and carbon taxes would be scrapped, despite the Government’s inability to get support for the issue in the Senate.

He cautioned Australia against allowing resource projects to shut because of local cost pressures or taxes only to move offshore where environmental concerns were not as strict.

He said Australian society and Australian workers had to ensure they didn’t price themselves out of the market and the carbon and mining taxes were an issue.

“It’s awfully important Australia maintains its competitiveness,’’ he said.

“We have talked about the exchange rate and it is what it is … but these taxes … the mining tax was a tax on tax on a tax.

“It was raised on the basis that mining companies were making super profits. Well guess what? Prices have turned and we are not making abnormal profits and people are surprised the tax isn’t triggered.’’

He said the push into the “robotisation’’ of mining was partly due to the massive wages the company had been forced to pay.

Mr Walsh, who earned $10 million last year, also introduced automated workshops when he headed Nissan’s operations and said that was done because Australians didn’t want to do the hard, dirty work.

“Some people have expressed concern about automation but quite frankly it’s getting harder and harder to attract young people to remote areas,’’ he said.

He said even with the collapse of manufacturing jobs on the east coast it had been difficult to entice many people to move.

“I can understand that,’’ he said.

“The wages are an important attraction, but young people want to be in the cities with the clubs and the bars and the social life.

“There are jobs for those who want them but it will be supplemented by automated trucks and trains and drills and so on.

“There are tradeoffs between automation and having operators do things. If you are not careful it will reach the stage where people price themselves out of the market.

“The mere fact that we are automating trucks and trains in the Pilbara is economic. There was a business case for it. That’s indicating there is an issue.’’

He said wages were softening in the coal industry, particularly among contractors, but that was not going to prevent the introduction of robots.

“Technology is going to progress and there will be a tradeoff between technology doing jobs that are hard or hot or boring and providing quality and efficiency that robotisation provides,’’ he said.

He said automated equipment was creeping into the coal industry as well and the Pilbara was a testing ground for automated trucks.

Henry Sapiecha

March 31st, 2014
Topic: EMPLOYMENT, MINING OIL GAS Tags: , , , , ,

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