Future looks bright as mining powers on – by Paul Everingham, CEO Chamber of Minerals and Energy


In a couple of months time, it will have been 123 years since Paddy Hannan found gold near Kalgoorlie and triggered a gold rush.

It wasn’t WA’s first rush, but it was the biggest and the most long lasting. All these years later and our Goldfields are as important to the State as ever.

Recently released statistics from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety paint a pretty good picture of that.

In the 2019-20 financial year, the mining and resources sector in the Goldfields-Esperance region accounted for 25,563 full-time equivalent jobs — second only to the Pilbara.  The region also provided more than $16 billion in mineral sales, again behind only the Pilbara.  The commodity after which the Goldfields is named continues to be a major contributor to WA’s economic fortunes.

In 2020, more than $12 billion of gold was produced in the Goldfields-Esperance region, nearly 70 per cent of the total for the entire State.  The Super Pit is now expected to keep producing until at least 2035 and, encouragingly, when the WA Government announced a five-year high in exploration last year, gold accounted for 70 per cent of it.

But the really good news is that it isn’t just gold that’s coming out or set to come out of the Goldfields.

The recent opening of the Cassini mine — expected to create more than 200 jobs as Kambalda’s first new nickel development in 20 years — speaks volumes for WA’s potential to be a major player in the global battery minerals space.

It also comes at a time when there is significant global optimism about electric vehicles.  Lithium prices have been rising steadily since the start of this year, while new US President Joe Biden has made EVs a focal point of his infrastructure planning.

A quick glance through the remainder of the major commodities produced in the Goldfields-Esperance region last year shows a range of materials that are essential in either batteries or electronics or both: lithium, tantalum, caesium, cobalt, copper and rare earths.

Rare earths could have an even more important part to play in the Goldfields’ future, with Lynas progressing plans to construct a $500 million processing plant in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.  This project is projected to create 500 jobs during construction and up to 150 ongoing roles during operation.

In short, the immediate and longer-term outlooks for the Goldfields-Esperance region are extremely bright.

But work still needs to be done to make sure these opportunities are capitalised on.

One of our biggest tasks at CME will be working with member companies, all levels of government and a variety of other stakeholders, to ensure we have policy settings and access to human resources that will allow that to happen.

Recent Newspaper Article from Kalgoorlie Miner – https://www.kalminer.com.au/