Minerals Council tells Australian gold sector to address ” four big issues” – including cyanide

One of Australia’s most senior mining lobbyists says the nation’s gold sector cannot ignore the range of high profile issues facing it or put at risk their social licence to operate. In Perth, addressing the final day of the 2008 Paydirt Gold Conference, Minerals Council of Australia, CEO, Mitchell Hooke, said gold was one of the few commodities that had a direct interface with the public at retail and usage level compared to commodities such as iron ore and coal. “Because of this, the Australian gold industry’s performance, under the current and intensifying climate change pressures, will come under increasing public scrutiny and this will impact key fundamentals such as access to human and financial capital.”

“The key issues facing gold are cyanide use and management, acid drainage, the industry’s impact on indigenous communities and artisinal mining.” Hooke said. “There is no room for dirty gold operations and the industry must continue to drive performance improvement in the gold supply chain. There are public campaigns to encourage gold retailers to make purchases in line with a whole host of social, ethical and human rights criteria and business practices. This pressure will flow down the chain and include in a job vacancies climate where the mining sector is struggling to meet all of its needs, elections by potential employees not to work for mining companies they see have a poor reputation.”

Hooke told conference delegates that the redrafted national report on sodium cyanide use, a contentious issue publicly for the gold sector, would be issued by regulators during the current June quarter. “We envisage that the final report will be completed by the end of this year. This is expected to consider a range of risk management protocols, including remediation of cyanide in tailings dams, storage, water system and wildlife protection. The recommendations from the report measures will have an important bearing on regulatory action at State and Federal levels.”

Hooke also called on gold players to continue their vigilance as to the impact of their operations on vulnerable indigenous communities. “These types of considerations are also critical as they impact the attitudes of Australia’s mainstream banking sector which operates under international financing guidelines which considers social and ethical issues when making lending decisions.”

Hooke said the MCA believed Australia currently had less than 20 years of known accessible gold resources in place. “Production has plateaued, gold production costs have risen 85% in seven years to now around A$325/oz, and Australia is slipping back as an investment destination for gold. The Minerals Council believes the sector should also not hold its breathe on the new Rudd Government making a decision this Budget on flowthrough share schemes – that will not happen until at least the next Federal Budget.”