Mine headgear towers above Kitwe, a town in the Copperbelt region of northern Zambia, on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008. About 68 percent of Zambians currently live below the poverty line, and the average life expectancy is just 38, even as the southern African nation earns record prices for copper, its largest export. Photographer: Jean-Claude Coutausse/Bloomberg News

Australia’s mining industry has been urged to play a key role in helping lift Africa out of poverty.

Speaking at the Africa Down Under conference, in Perth last week, Australia-Africa Mining Industry Group (AAMIG) CEO Trish O’Reilly said Australian mining companies’ track record of investment in Africa meant the industry could play a lead role in meeting Africa’s sustainable development goals.

“In-ground discoveries made by Australian companies in Africa amount to A$687 billion, and it is this mineral wealth that Australia can help unlock and translate into socioeconomic growth, benefitting Africa’s impoverished people,” O’Reilly said.

“The predicted investment by Australian companies in mining, and the resulting jobs growth, training, tax revenue and infrastructure development – including roads, rail and electricity – will be vital in efforts to permanently lift millions of people out of poverty. In this sense, the Australian resources industry’s future investment in Africa is a potential game changer.”

More than 200 Australian resources companies and 700 service and supply firms are involved in exploration, extraction and processing activities in Africa. There are more than 1 100 projects in various stages of development across 38 countries in Africa.

AAMIG’s interaction with African governments over the past year has reaffirmed the belief that African nations are hungry for investment from Australia’s miners and explorers.

“In Australia, we have developed world-class technology and expertise in the resources sector over 150 years. We have refined a model that has strong regulatory standards, transparency, good governance, works well with local communities and integrates indigenous people into the associated economy through employment and procurement. We are proud of the quality of our domestic resources industry and we are exporting it to the world,” she said.

“Against that background, 2015 is emerging for Australia’s mining counterparts in Africa, as a watershed year for socioeconomic development.

“The challenge for Africa will be to attract investment which can lead to increased mining revenue for governments, employment of thousands of people and provide the training and opportunity for a new generation of African leaders with the global skills required to compete on the international stage.

“Mining can provide those opportunities and Australian companies operating across Africa are already well-regarded for their ability to provide positive social impacts on their host communities.

“However, they must continue to be innovative in their approach in order to both increase these positive impacts and improve their standing on that continent,” O’Reilly concluded.

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