Paul Everingham: How the resources sector benefits all of WA

Paul Everingham, The West Australian
The resources sector faces a shortage of skilled workers.
The resources sector faces a shortage of skilled workers. Credit: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

When it comes to describing the impact of WA’s mining and resources sector, there are no shortages of statistics to choose from.

Some of them might be familiar. There’s the $9.29 billion in royalties contributed to the WA Government in 2019-20, the record 140,000 people the sector employed in the 2020 calendar year and the $174b in sales generated last year.

But by themselves these numbers don’t tell the full story of how mining and resources operations help support families, local businesses and community organisations not only around WA but also right across Australia.

It’s with a sense of pride that the Chamber of Minerals and Energy today releases its annual economic contribution fact sheets.

Partly this pride comes because it has been a challenging journey to get there.

While it’s well-documented that our sector has been able to operate both safely and effectively throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s taken a lot of collaborative effort to make this happen.

We’re grateful for the support we’ve had at all levels of government and from health authorities, police, Perth Airport and our airline partners, to name but a few.

Mostly though, we are grateful to the sector’s workforce for the sacrifices they’ve made over the past 18 months, including during the most recent lockdown of late June and early July. A lot has been asked of our workers and they have performed outstandingly.

The other reason these economic fact sheets are a source of pride is because of the insights they provide into how our sector positively influences the lives of so many people and communities.

The headline figures are eye-catching: from the 65 CME member companies we analysed, there was a direct economic contribution of nearly $52b to the WA economy and more than $83b Australia-wide. Given those 65 companies reflect most of our membership but not all of it, and there are WA mining and resources operations outside the CME umbrella, it’s fair to suggest the actual contributions of our sector would be a fair amount bigger than that.

Payments to the State Government by these member companies comprise more than $7.6b, while payments to the Federal Government were more than $18b. Those contributions help fund healthcare, education and other essential services at a State level, while Federal contributions have provided for important COVID-19 recovery mechanisms like JobKeeper and JobSeeker.

Drilling down further, you get an even better feel for how much our sector influences the lives of so many people in so many communities.

Those 65 CME member companies, for example, employ more than 69,400 full-time employees and pay them more than $10b in wages. If you throw in the contractors they employ, that’s another 24,600-plus jobs for a full-time total of more than 94,000 full-time employees nationally.

Significantly, 65,000 of these full-time member company jobs are held by people living in WA.

But the flow-on employment effects of the spending of these member companies don’t stop there. Nationally, that spend supported an additional 215,000 full-time jobs, while in WA the figure is more than 117,000 jobs.

What that effectively tell us is that close to one in six full-time jobs in WA is either directly with one of those 65 CME member companies or supported by what they do.

In terms of local businesses, the activities of this sample of member companies support more than 10,600 businesses in WA and another 4000-plus Australian businesses outside of the State. Of course, communities are about much more than business and it’s extremely heartening to know there were more than 770 community organisations supported in 2019-20, some 716 of them right here in WA.

Nearly 70 local governments were also supported.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that in every community in WA, there are people who either work in mining and resources, are involved in businesses that benefit from and supply goods and services to our sector, or are members of community organisations and groups supported by CME member company contributions.

In a lot of cases, I suspect, there would be households who fit into all three of these categories.

While our sector can feel justifiably proud of this contribution, it’s certainly not something we take for granted.

We are fortunate to operate in a State and country that are politically stable, and, by world standards, have been able to able to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic very successfully.

But there will always be challenges. One of the bigger ones that we have highlighted in recent times is a nationwide, cross-industry skills shortage that means our sector alone could needs as many as 40,000 additional workers over the next two years.

Just like we have with COVID-19, CME and its member companies will work with all levels of government and a wide range of stakeholders, to address to this issue and help unlock the full value of the $140b of projects that are currently in the WA mining and resources pipeline.

As our economic fact sheets show, a great many people and communities rely on us doing so.

Paul Everingham is the chief executive of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA.