• Rebecca Tomkinson appointed first female CEO of WA’s famous and powerful mining lobby, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy
  • Tomkinson says her aim is to leave the mining industry in a stronger place when her tenure is up
  • Markets rebound as iron ore futures post turnaround


WA’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA was formed in Kalgoorlie back in the gold rush days and if any of you ‘Othersiders’ don’t know, it is extremely powerful.

It has been instrumental in warding off a range of perceived threats to the industry — Kevin Rudd’s ‘super-profits tax’ back in 2010 and Labor Premier Mark McGowan’s gold royalty increase in 2017 (cannily dubbed a tax) two of the prime examples.

The CME and its members have even effectively funded a branch of the WA Police in Kalgoorlie for around a century known as the Gold Stealing Detection Unit in an uncomfortable injection of business interests into the public service.

It holds strong sway when it comes to policy around the industry as well, having input for instance into the Federal Government’s budget plan to turn the Pilbara into a “new energy powerhouse”.

But the seemingly omnipresent mining lobby has a series of challenges to navigate as well most of them in the ESG realm.

There is the parliamentary inquiry into sexual abuse and harassment in the FIFO mining industry after a series of cases at major mines owned by BHP and Fortescue Metals Group among others came to light last year.

Then there is inflation, an ongoing skills shortage, Covid and the drive for some of Australia’s biggest polluters to help the country hit Net Zero emissions targets.

New CME CEO Rebecca Tomkinson. Pic: CMEWA


Meet the new boss

In a major changing of the guard the CME has called on its first female boss in its 122 year history to spearhead its response to those challenges, with Rebecca Tomkinson replacing Paul Everingham as CEO after four years at the helm of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Tomkinson, who will take over from Everingham in the coming months, told media today she wants to leave the mining industry in WA in a stronger state than it is right now.

That seems a tough task given the rapid growth of the mining sector in recent years, but Tomkinson says the CME wants to ensure WA has the skills for the future and see the industry hit ESG targets as the world works towards ‘Net Zero’.

“We want to ensure that WA has the skills for the future, there’s also great opportunity to be able to continue the work that the industry has done on its diversity and inclusion agenda,” she said.

“And I’m really looking forward to being able to partner with community and industry on that. I also see that there are $156 billion worth of projects in the pipeline.

“We are moving towards net zero emissions.

“And you know, industry has talked about its alignment with the Paris Agreement and the opportunity that decarbonisation will bring in hydrogen, the use of our rare and critical minerals, there’s extraordinary providence for this industry globally, as the world is looking to us to be able to deliver those resources in a sustainable way.”


Straight bat on China

Tomkinson and CME president Fiona Hick, a Woodside executive, both played a straight bat to questions from Stockhead about the Australian Government’s relationship with China.

It looms as a key talking point ahead of the May 21 election, and there have been concerns from within the industry about diplomatic ties between the two nations which have become increasingly strained over the past two years.

China accounts for around 80% of iron ore demand out of the Pilbara and is a major market for exports of copper, nickel, gas and coal — a market Australian coal miners have been locked out of since late 2020.

Asked whether a “reset” is needed both Tomkinson and Hick said relationships between miners and their international customers were important, but declined to mention China specifically.

“I think that it’s really important for us to be working across international relationships and developing good strong partnerships,” Tomkinson said.

“So I do feel that it is important for us to look at how we can strengthen those markets and those relationships. And obviously, on the other side of May 21 we’ll be working together with our members to look at how we can advocate accordingly.”

“Our mining and resources sector has been built on customer relationships with our customers in host countries in our host markets,” Hick said.

“The industry has been doing that for decades and we’d like to continue doing that for decades more.

“So we have very strong relationships that are company to company and company to customer level and I think the importance of strong relationships at all levels of companies and government is important to strengthen and maintain.”


What about the markets?

Iron ore hit a four month low overnight but sentiment seems to be swaying in the direction that the rout has been stopped for now.

After several dark days on the market and weakening demand for metals out of Covid-stricken China, the Materials sector lifted 0.87% to outpace the broader 0.19% gain for the ASX 200.

Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) and Fortescue (ASX:FMG) were the big movers in the large caps, up 2.59% and 2.3% respectively.

Lithium miner Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) also rebounded, up 3.56% to $2.62.

Singapore 62% iron ore futures lifted more than 4% to US$131.60/t.


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