Western Australia is the biggest contributor to the nation's resources industry, accounting for 44 per cent of all Australia's merchandise exports and over 65 per cent of Australia's exports to China.
With over $250 billion worth of new resource projects in the pipeline for Western Australia alone, these figures are surely set to rise.
Australia Bureau of Statistics figures show mining had the largest dollar increase ($1.5 billion) in expenditure on research and development between 2006-07 and 2008-09 - further evidence of Australia's status as a world leader in mining technology.
To support the development and growth of our resources sector, the WA government has taken significant steps to accelerate the state's approvals processes for resources development and exploration.
Changes have been supported by improvements to online monitoring of submitted approval applications, interagency agreements and the publishing of quarterly approval performance reports.
The department recently won a Western Australian information technology and telecommunications award in the service delivery and training category for its Advancing the government approvals processes for the resource industry project.
The project included the implementation of a range of innovative and effective techniques to improve the approvals process, such as online lodgement and tracking systems for the industry, as well as an integrated view across the various approvals systems.
As a direct result of the implementation of this technology, consistency was improved and confusion decreased for all proponents in dealing with the government.
It was a credit to all the staff involved for competing so well against both private and government organisations, and was another success for technological advances in the mining industry.
To further encourage the longevity of technology research for the minerals and energy sector, the state government provides funding for the Minerals and Energy Research Institute of Western Australia (MERIWA). The institute helps foster and promote minerals and energy research by providing funding for research projects.
MERIWA provides scholarships to encourage research in an industry that is the driver of the WA and national economies. Research from these projects provides important data and supports technological advances. Continued support is necessary to promote research and development and establish a strong technical base for the industries. MERIWA is currently providing $1.8 million across 17 projects that are valued at more than $8 million in total.
MERIWA also keeps industry informed of cutting-edge research by publishing details of completed projects and making the data available to industry.
Technology is advancing at an increasingly rapid pace. It will be fascinating to see what 2011 and beyond holds for the Australian mining industry.