Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has announced plans to expand its bauxite refining operations in a bid to grow its export market in China.

Rio Tinto Alcan chief executive Jacynthe Cote has pledged that the company will place a greater emphasis on the completion of the Yarwun II alumina refinery in Queensland. Ms Cote expressed her confidence that as China’s demand for aluminum grows, so to will its demand for bauxite, placing the company in a strong position to supply China.

Rio, which crrentl supplies 25 per cent of China’s bauxite imports, is set to grow its production exponentially by 2016-17.

A report published by Deloitte Access Economics shows that the Western Australian economy is set to continue to prosper for decades on the back of jobs and export growth.

Research conducted by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) shows that nearly two-thirds of large companies are considering hiring from overseas in order mitigate the effects of the growing skills shortage.

Mining unions have won a landmark legal victory that is set to allow them bargaining rights over pay and conditions at the booming Pilbara iron ore operations of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

The South Australian Government’s decision to halt all mining in the Arkaroola region in the State’s far-north stands to stall uranium exploration in the area.

BHP Billiton has recorded its highest profit in its history after posting a first-half net profit of $10.6 billion, representing a 71 per cent jump in profits.

Woodside Petroleum’s planned floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) project in the Timor Sea is under threat from a dispute with partners and the East Timorese Government.

Research conducted by Wood Mackenzie shows that coal producers could have up $17 billion wiped off their asset value in the event of the introduction of the Federal Government’s planned carbon tax.

Queensland’s coal industry has revealed an underperforming June quarter as the sector continues to suffer the lingering effects of the spate of natural disasters earlier in the year.

The Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) has been officially opened at the University of Newcastle.

Hong Kong listed company CITIC Pacific Limited has announced that the company’s engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) for the Sino Iron project in Western Australia, has put forward a proposal for an additional payment of around $900-million to meet increased project costs and design changes.

The Western Australian Government has vowed to continue to apply pressure on the Federal Government to make changes to its visa program, following a positive response to a delegation in the United Kingdom targeting skilled migrants.

The delegation is led by Training and Workforce Development Minister Peter Collier to promote the attributes of living and working in Western Australia to potential skilled migrants.

Speaking from the UK, Mr Collier said he had received positive feedback from the people he had met and were keen to come to WA, but faced major hurdles with the Federal Government’s visa process.

“Coming to the end of our trip, we have met thousands of people in the UK,” he said.

“The one clear message we are constantly being given is that people want to come to WA but are often frustrated by the Federal visa process, which is holding back the ability of skilled workers coming to the State.

“The Government has appealed for changes to the Federal migration program to help WA supplement its workforce needs - I met with Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen in March to discuss these changes in detail.

“It’s no secret that there will be huge demands on WA’s future workforce needs - its been well documented and reported, yet the Federal Government seems completely oblivious to our requirements.”

Key points the Minister raised with Mr Bowen during their meeting included recognition of Perth under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme; providing greater flexibility with visas, particularly in expanding the type of skilled occupations that qualify for 457 visas; expanding the use of Working Holiday Maker and Student visas; reviewing the new International English Language Test Score; considering incentives to increase the level of foreign students entering Australia and to encourage them to join the domestic workforce; reviewing the proposed new points test requirements for the Skilled Migration Program; and reviewing the allocation of State sponsored visas.

“WA has presented some real solutions to assist with our workforce needs, but it seems the Federal Government is not willing to discuss alternatives beyond their existing parameters.

“This is further proof that the Federal Government has little or no understanding of what’s required to support the State’s future workforce demands.”

With more than $225billion of resource and infrastructure projects planned or under construction, WA is facing a potential shortfall of up to 150,000 skilled workers by 2017.

“Addressing these workforce issues will be a significant challenge for government, industry and the community,” Mr Collier said.

“Our top priority is to ensure that jobs are filled from within WA but this alone will not be enough - it will be necessary to recruit workers from overseas to boost our skilled labour needs.

“We need assistance from the Federal Government to ensure we can attract and retain enough skilled workers to meet future demand, yet we are not receiving this support.”

The State’s delegation to the UK includes representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA; Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA; Australian Hotels Association; Motor Trades Association and Civil Contractors Federation, as well as other industry and government groups. They have met with a range of key organisations over the past 10 days.

CommSec’s State of the States quarterly report shows that Western Australia has the strongest economy in the country, propelled by a strong mining and engineering sector that has driven commercial construction and a vibrant export industry based on the mining and minerals industry. 

Energy Group Santos has announced it has agreed to purchase Eastern Star Gas (ESG) in an all-share deal valued at a total $924 million.

BHP Billiton has announced a merger acquisition of US based Petrohawk Energy Corporation after agreeing to pay an all-cash tender of US$38.75 per share, paying a total of US$12.1 billion (AUD$11.41 billion).

Caltex, Australia’s only listed refiner-marketer, has confirmed an $80 million upgrade to its fuel storage and expansion plans in South Australia. Caltex will aim to boost supply reliability throughout the state in a bid to support the state’s booming resources sector.

Monash University’s Centre for Population and Urban Research has published a research report that challenges the sustainability and viability of the Government’s net 180,000 immigration target, and questions its strategy for meeting the resource industry's skills needs.

Mining and energy companies are hiring labour well before needed in an attempt to stave off effects of expected future skills shortages later in the year.

Safe Work Australia has announced the public comment period for model work health and safety legislation for the mining industry.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury, has certified the Queensland Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT) Access Regime as an 'effective access regime' under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) for a period of 10 years.

A new research alliance has been formed to support the sustainable development of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry in Queensland.

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