What’s next for the Tasmanian mining industry?  


A turbulent year filled with closures, environmental battles, falling prices and three unanswered fatalities has painted a bleak picture for the future of Tasmania’s mining sector, which was expected to fill the employment gap in the state caused by the downturn in the forest industry.

Image courtesy of [dan] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of [dan] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
However, the delaying of yet another west coast venture last week, coupled with the rising market pressure and a number of legal challenges facing miners has forced them to place their hopes for the future on plans to reopen former mines and continue exploration.

Last week Venture Minerals was forced to suspend its Riley Creek iron ore project due to legal action from the environmental group, Save the Tarkine.

Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council CEO Jeremy Kouw  said the decision to suspend operations at the mine was motivated by the continuing delays they have experienced through the legal challenges and appeals brought by minority groups.


“This is again clear evidence that as a state we have real issues with project approval processes which are sapping investor confidence in putting money into Tasmania and creating the jobs we so desperately need,” he said.

Market pressure has also been blamed for the problems facing the mining industry, with iron ore price dropping to about $90 a tonne, causing Shree Minerals to halt operations in June after just three shipments from its Nelson Bay River mine.

Two other Tasmanian mines have confirmed they are shutting down.

The three fatalities at the Mount Lyell copper mine in December raised questions about safety that remained unanswered, and while  operations were due to resume last month, the rockfall  proved too much of a setback.

According to the ABC, the Minerals Council said mines already had a strong focus on safety but wanted to see more resources given to the state’s Mine Inspectorate.

It is the diversity of Tasmania’s mining industry, however, that could prove to be the saving grace for the struggling industry.

With more than 560 mining leases and six major operating mines in an area covering less than 1% of the island state, Tasmania is one of the most highly mineralised regions in the world.

Iron ore producer Grange Resources, the Rosebery silver, lead and zinc mine, and Australia’s biggest tin producer Renison are all present in the region, with Venture Minerals trying to raise finance for a major tin project at Mount Lindsay, and plans to reopen the Avebury nickel mine at Zeehan, as well as a scheelite mine on King Island already in place.

Tasmania’s Mineral Council believes mining continues to be an important part of the Tasmanian export sector.

“If you look at the exploration, mining, mineral processing sector, including the energy intensive manufacturing, we’re the largest contributor by export value to the state of Tasmania,” said Mr Jeremy Kouw.