DISCUSSIONS around how mining companies work with their local communities took centre stage on the first day of the Asia Pacific International Mining Exhibition (AIMEX) at the Sydney Showgrounds.

In the opening keynote speech of the AIMEX Conference, NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee commended the event for its opening focus on community.

“There’s a lot of focus on technology and innovation [at AIMEX] which is very good news for our industry, but it’s also great to have the opportunity to focus on some other very important priorities for us as an industry in relation to community engagement,” he said.

“It’s a very commendable way to start a mining industry event.

Mr Galilee said the NSW Minerals Council addressed the local community’s priorities through its Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue (UHMD) project, one of the world’s best engagement community practices.

The keynote was followed by an engaging panel discussion about ways that mining companies can engage more with communities more collaboratively in regional and rural areas.

 

It was chaired by Austmine CEO Christine Gibbs-Stewart, who led the discussion about what leverage points the industry had, particularly with the METS sector, to change the traditional image of mining.

Yancoal environment and community executive general manager Mark Jacobs was one of the panel members and he said that as an industry, mining companies hadn’t always done community engagement particularly well.

“I think that for a long time the industry took the community for granted on the basis it was providing economic impetus to communities, but I think the availability of information and the visibility of our operations has made us a lot closer to communities than 20 years ago,” Mr Jacobs said.

Fellow panellist Anna Littleboy, program leader from Mine Lifecycles, Sustainable Minerals Institute, University of Queensland, said effort was needed to continue to engage with communities.

 

“The community will change, the different groups within the community will shift and move so you can never really take a moment in time and say this is my relationship with the community,” Ms Littleboy said.

The afternoon sessions concentrated on automation and the potential safety issues but also how the workforce will be involved and how it will change the tasks that people will undertake.

As visitors streamed through the exhibits, demonstrations were held on all types of technology, from welding through to lubricant friction tests, while there was also an opportunity to see and touch huge coal loaders, underground machines, vehicles, engines and much more.

Mining companies were also kept busy in the all-new Mining Pavilion with visitors finding out about their current activities and discussing job opportunities.