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Australian Institute of Geoscientists 2017 Annual General Meeting

The 2017 Annual General Meeting of the Australian Institute of Geoscientists will be held in Perth on 17th May, 2017.

The AGM venue will be:

Irish Club of WA
61 Townshend Rd,
Subiaco W.A. 6008

The Annual General Meeting will precede the MEGWA meeting being held that evening, commencing at 6:00 pm.  Members may meet at the bar from 5:30 pm.

The Notice of Meeting was distributed to all members today.  If you did not receive the notice, please confirm that your details are up to date using the AIG Membership portal, accessed via the Member Login link at the top of each page of the AIG web site.  If you have forgotten your password it can be reset from the portal home page.  If you encounter difficulties accessing the portal or your membership details, you can also contact AIG’s Executive Officer, Lynn Vigar by email, or the AIG Secretariat office in Sydney.

Eight Council vacancies are to be filled at the meeting.  Eight nominations were received for the eight positions, six from Councillors eligible for re-election and two new nominees.  A resolution to confirm the appointment of nominees to these positions was included in the meeting papers sent to members today.  Members, Fellows and Retired Members are eligible to vote for these resolutions using an on-line poll.

Again, if you have not received the Notice of Meeting, confirm your contact details are correct and contact Lynn Vigar or the AIG Secretariat Office for assistance.

 

AIG 2017 AGM Agenda
AIG 2017 Proxy Form AGM
AIG AGM minutes 18 May 2016

 

Smart Use of Technology and Data

8 CPD HoursAIG Victoria branch will hold their annual conference on Friday 13 October 2017 on the smart and successful use of innovative technology and data.  The conference will be held at Macedon, a short country drive from Melbourne airport.

This conference provides the opportunity for geoscientists who have made smart discoveries using smart technology to showcase their results.  The conference additionally provides the opportunity for innovative technology companies to showcase their smart products.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry
  • Geological Mapping
  • Drones
  • Drill sampling and analysis
  • Data mining
  • Augmented reality
  • Drilling technology
  • 3D printing
  • Satellite imagery
  • GIS
  • Software

Speaker registration open | Exhibition booths available | Sponsorship packages available

Call for speakers: Four sessions will be held for 12-16 speakers. Presentations are 20 minutes each plus 5 minutes for questions. No abstracts or papers will be required, instead authors are requested to provide a copy of their presentation for the AIG conference web site. Please include a brief biography when submitting your request to present.

Sponsorship & Exhibition Booths: Packages are available. Exhibition booths are restricted to the first 15 applicants. Booths include a table and 2 chairs. Please nominate when registering if you prefer to bring your own banners or require a 1.8 m x 1.0 m poster board.

Click here for more information and/or to register as a speaker.

For further information and to register your interest please contact:
Rodney Boucher
Phone: 0417 506 051
Email: rodney@linex.com.au

Changes to 457 Visas Announced

The Australian government yesterday (18th April, 2017) announced an overhaul of the 457 temporary work visa scheme.  The announcement of the proposed changes lacked detail but in essence:

  • The new working visa scheme announced will have two- and four-year categories, and workers will be required to have two years’ relevant experience in the field that they are applying for a visa in, and  criminal record checks will also be required.
  • Employers will need to do labour market testing in Australia before applying to sponsor overseas workers.
  • The four-year category will require applicants to demonstrate English language proficiency;
  • More than 216 occupations have been removed from the list of eligible occupations for temporary work visas.

The list of occupations for which foreign worker visas may be applied for still includes geologists, but now excludes hydrogeologists and geophysicists.  Drillers have also been removed rom the list of eligible professions.

There were 95,758 foreign workers on 457 visas as of September 2016, according to the Department of Immigration.  The majority of visa holders were from India (26.6 per cent), followed by the United Kingdom (16.9 percent) and China (6.1 per cent).

Some 190 457 visas were issued for geologists, geophysicists and hydrogeologists since 2014 based on an analysis of available data by SBS.  A further 117 visas were issued for other natural and physical science professionals and 79 for environmental scientists.

The number of 457 visas issued for geoscientists is estimated to represent about 6% of the number of unemployed geoscientists in Australia today based on there being 8,000 geoscientists in Australia according to the 2011 Census, but not all of whom would be working or seeking work in geosciences, making the 6% estimate likely to be much higher.  The prospect that there are more than 1,100 unemployed geoscientists in Australia questions the need for geologists to remain on the list of occupations for which temporary work visa applications should be considered.  A continued requirement for labour market testing could reasonably be expected to prevent issuing visas to workers to fill roles for which suitable, Australian candidates exist.  The application of labour market testing has, however, been a target for criticism in the past.  In the past few years there has been a marked shift towards employment opportunities being filled through companies identifying candidates through profile searches on LinkedIn and other on-line employment services, or companies’ own databases containing approaches from potential candidates.

One area that could be adversely affected by the proposed changes is issuing of visas to academics and researchers to work at Australian universities and research organisations, including CSIRO, where there are arguments for the benefits of varied background and experience in higher education and the development and commercialisation of new technologies.

The Commonwealth government announcement met with a mixed reaction from industry groups.  It was criticised by immigration lawyers as lacking detail, being implemented abruptly, and for not allowing people to plan.  The IT industry is, by far, the biggest user of the 457 visa program.  A number of IT industry representatives were also critical of the announcement.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils’, the peak body representing migrant communities in Australia, said it would welcome serious attempts to reform the 457 scheme but would wait on more detailed information relating to the program.

The Australian Industry Group (AIG) welcomed the changes, stating that changes to the 457 program would draw the focus back to the program’s primary purpose of addressing the pockets of skill shortages that persist in Australia.

AIG has written to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection on several occasions, criticising the issuing of 457 visas to overseas geoscientists at times of high unemployment in the profession in Australia.  These representations met with the response that all visas were issued only following labour market testing by employers.  The proposed changes How the Department of Immigration and Border Protection intends to apply labour market testing in light of the vastly increased use of on-line employment resources is something that AIG intends to pursue in a broader representation to the Minister and Department using data from the current geoscientist employment survey.

All Australian geoscientists can contribute to this effort by completing the survey by the 28th April closing date.

Exploring Earth and Environmental Science – Edition 2

Official Launch of the Best Books for Earth and Environmental Science

Invited guests of Earth Science Western Australia (ESWA) descended upon Canning Vale College on the 23rd of March to celebrate the official launch of edition two of Exploring Earth and Environmental Science.

ESWA Board members, supporters and volunteers, Earth and Environmental Science (EES) teachers and students took this opportunity to celebrate an important milestone in EES education. Peter Rudrum, Principal of Canning Vale College, enthusiastically welcomed all guests and spoke about the important assistance given to the College’s teachers and students to resource and promote earth sciences education across Years 7-12. Mark Thompson, Vice Chair of ESWA, reminisced about the history of the textbook (initially released in 2011), thanked the many contributors to this edition and shared a little about the large number of successful programs ESWA runs across the state.

Professor Lyn Beazley then took the stage to officially launch this edition outlining how import EES and STEM education is for our future and her love for the new textbooks. She went on to share with everyone her favourite parts of the texts (she really had read them cover to cover!) and why these were interesting and special to her, stating that they are the best Earth and Environmental textbooks in the world.

This launch was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all that is being done to support and promote earth sciences education across WA by a dedicated team with a large number of supporters. The new edition of this textbook would not have possible without the support of Woodside Energy nor this launch function without Canning Vale College.


About Exploring Earth and Environmental Science

The textbook Exploring Earth and Environmental Science was released in 2011 to support the Western Australian EES curriculum. This large volume, 520 pages, served teachers and students well for several years. With the implementation of the WA version of the Australian Curriculum from 2015 it was decided that the textbook needed a major revision to align itself to the curriculum and to allow for important updates. A team of dedicated authors then set out, under the direction of ESWA’s CEO, to split the book into two volumes, Year 11 and 12, to produce relevant, easy to read and visually appealing textbooks for students.

Since its release late in 2016 hundreds of volumes have been sold in WA, the ACT and Queensland, with growing interest from other states.

For more information on these texts, or to purchase them, visit – www.earthsciencewa.com.au or contact Jo – jo@earthsciencewa.com.au.

The declining state of exploration in Australia

Any geoscientist working in mineral exploration in Australia over the past few years will tell you that the sector has been doing it tough.  

Junior explorers have experienced difficulties raising capital.  There appears to have not been a lot of mid-tier to major company interest in exploration in recent years, with a few notable exceptions.   The industry as a whole has faced a growing burden associated with gaining access to land in the form of long lead times between applying for exploration licences and having them granted, and a mountain of red tape associated with permitting for even very low-impact exploration activities.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) mineral exploration expenditure statistics, released quarterly, and Australian geoscientist employment survey results, compiled by AIG since 2009, have recorded evidence of declining investment in mineral exploration in Australia, with consequences for discovery, development and retention of geoscientists with essential specialised skills, and the economic benefits experienced by the broader community especially in rural and remote areas.

The finger of blame is frequently pointed at the Federal Government as the ultimate steward of Australia’s economy.  Land and natural resource management, however, are state responsibilities.  Evidence suggests that different states are discharging these responsibilities with varying effect and success.

Land under exploration title in Australia

The proportion of each Australian state held under some form of exploration title has fallen steadily since 2011 according to information compiled by Doug Brewster, a Brisbane based AIG member (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Proportion of the area of each Australian state held under exploration title 2011 – February 2017

The chart shows steady decline in the proportion of each state held under exploration title.  The rate of decrease has been greatest in New South Wales where the overall rate of decline has been almost double that evident in the other states, despite a recent slowing.

The important feature of this chart is that every state has experienced a decline in the area under exploration between 2011 and early (February) 2017 and that no end to, or even a significant slowing in the downward trend is in sight except for the Northern Territory in recent times).  The similarities in the rates of decline in each state is hard to conceive as being a coincidence, but the reason for this is considered to be elusive.

The more populous states are, by some, considered to create a greater compliance burden for explorers and, in doing so, discourage exploration.  Figure 2, which compares the proportion of each state under exploration licence and average population density suggests that there may be some evidence of this, but that its far from conclusive.

Figure 2. Area under exploration licence vs average population density (2015 data)

How is Australia perceived as a destination for exploration investment?

Canada’s Fraser Institute has been conducting an annual survey of mining companies since 1997.  One of the parameters derived from the survey responses is a Policy Perception Index (PPI).  While geologic and economic considerations are important factors in mineral exploration, a region’s policy climate is also an important investment consideration.  The PPI measures the overall policy attractiveness of the jurisdictions covered by each survey.   The index is based on survey responses to policy factors that a affect investment decisions including:

  • uncertainty concerning the administration of current regulations,
  • environmental regulations,
  • regulatory duplication,
  • the legal system and taxation regime,
  • uncertainty concerning protected areas and disputed land claims,
  • infrastructure,
  • socioeconomic and community development conditions,
  • trade barriers,
  • political stability,
  • labour regulations,
  • quality of the geological database,
  • security, and
  • labour and skills availability.

All of these, with the exception, perhaps, of trade barriers and security, are areas of State government responsibility.

The performance of each Australian state was examined over the past ten years by plotting the position of each state in the survey rankings to obtain a comparison of how Australian states are perceived relative to other jurisdictions for exploration investment (Figure 3).

Figure 3.  Fraser Institute policy Perception Index Ranking – How each Australian state and territory compares with other surveyed jusrisdictions 2006 – 2016

Figure 3 shows that over the past decade, the PPI standing of Western Australia has steadily improved, South Australia and the Northern Territory have remained more or less static, while every other state has fallen.  The policy perception index ranking for New South Wales exhibits  a sharp decline since 2012.  New South Wales was ranked 14th globally in 2006.  It ranked 66th in the world in 2016.  In comparison, in 2006 Western Australia ranked 18th in the world in terms of PPI.  In 2016 it was ranked 9th.

The actual PPI scores tell a slightly different story.  The actual scores for most Australian states are higher today than their lowest point in the past decade (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Fraser Institute Policy Perception Index of each Australian State 2006-2016

 

A case can be made that the policy perception index for most Australian states and territories have improved over the past decade.  The issue is, however, that competing jurisdictions have, clearly, improved more, arguably making them better placed as potential destinations for exploration investment.

A situation where only one state is exhibiting consistent improvement in terms of exploration investment attractiveness over the past decade doesn’t bode well for Australia.

Table 1. Who are we competing with?  Selected Fraser Institute PPI rankings from the 2016 survey of mining companies.

The jurisdictions that Australia’s states and territories are competing with is summarised in Table 1.

The Republic of Ireland had the highest PPI in the 2016 Fraser Institute Survey, followed by Saskatchewan, Sweden, Finland, Nevada, Manitoba, Wyoming, New Brusnwick, Western Australia and Northern Ireland rounding out the top 10.

South Australia and the Northern Territory ranked closely against Norway, Utah, Alaska, Spain and Canada’s Yukon Territory, but ahead of a number of U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

Tasmania was ranked between Ghana and Serbia, while Queensland was ranked between Chile, Namibia and New Zealand.

Victoria was perceived to have a PPI comparable with those of Ivory Coast, British Columbia and Zambia.

New South Wales joined Brazil, Russia, the Dominican Republic, China and Mozambique in the lower part of the rankings, but ahead of a number of countries including Papua New Guinea, South Africa, India, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Importantly, the highly ranked jurisdictions, with favourable regulatory and resources policy environments, are not developing countries.  The most highly ranked African nation, for example, Botswana, is ranked 12th globally and is the only developing nation in the top 25 positions in the survey.

What needs to be done?

Explorers need to compete for investment by generating projects that compete technically and commercially with others in a global market.  Countries, provinces and states that wish to have a viable minerals industry have a responsibility to ensure that there is a pipeline of projects to at least main that jurisdiction’s reserves, to maintain or facilitate expansion of their minerals industry.

The policy climate of each state and territory is something in their immediate control.  It is not constrained by local or global economic conditions or the outlook for commodities which do have a marked impact on the level of exploration investment.

The desirability of exploration investment: the policy settings and bureaucratic processors faced by explorers; is something that is completely within government control.

Importantly, the PPI Index rankings arguably contradict the perception frequently expressed by some groups expressed about exploration and mining companies that they prefer to operate in jurisdictions where controls on the industry are lax.  Quite the opposite is true: exploration and mining companies prefer to operate where the regulatory environment offers transparency and security for exploration investment.

There is a compelling case for looking closely at what the top ten jurisdictions in the PPI ranking are doing right for guidance on the policy settings and regulatory environment required to ensure Australia remains a favoured destination for exploration investment.  The Fraser Institute Policy Perception Index and the area of each state and territory under exploration title provide clear and transparent measures of success in addressing this issue.

All levels of government have a role in achieving improvements, but primary responsibility rests with individual states to either continue efforts to remain globally competitive or address issues responsible for their declining global competitiveness.

Andrew Waltho FAIG RPGeo