Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has called for a closer business relationship between Australia and Latin America, saying that more could be done to build on the strong foundation that mining had left.
Speaking at the Latin America Down Under conference, in Sydney, Carr noted that while both continents were sharing their expertise and experience in the mining sector, there was still room to build on the personal, government and business links.
“There is much more that we can do together, on the international financial system, in multilateral efforts, in trade and in security. And for the global environment,” Carr told delegates.
The Minister noted that the presence of Australian miners in Latin American countries had grown over the last two decades, with more than 80 Australian mining and exploration companies now active in the region.
In the mining equipment, technology and services sector, there were only three or four companies in Latin America some 15 years ago. Today, there were over 80 companies in Chile alone, and dozens of others across the region, said Carr.
“Mining makes up about 8% of our gross domestic product, and more than half of our export revenue,” said Carr.
“Last year, our mining exports were worth A$176-billion, and are forecast to break the A$200-billion-a-year mark in the near future. Our miners are a great domestic industry but, unsurprisingly, given their international markets, they have led the way in developing projects overseas.”
Carr also called for a greater working relationship on environmental reform and standards, saying that climate change and the health of the oceans were two of the most difficult global challenges faced in this century.
“But we need an environmental awareness to permeate through every level of what we do.
“Latin America and Australia are both regions with strong environmental importance – just look at our extraordinary biodiversity. We both have rich resource endowments, which we have to extract in a way that does not damage our local environments or alienate local communities.”
Carr noted that when done properly, mining could be a catalyst for sustainable socioeconomic development.
“Transparency is critical, as is sound financial and environmental management. We strongly support developing economies endowed with resources adopting sound mining practices.”
Carr told delegates that through the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, and an aid programme, Australia would be running sustainable mining workshops in Mexico and Peru later in 2012.
“This will be an area on which we can continue to collaborate in coming decades, a place in which we can learn from each other,” he said.