BHP Billiton will still be a part of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal expansion.
BHP Billiton will still be a part of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal expansion. Contributed

Services govt role, claims Rio

A MULTI-NATIONAL mining giant appears to have ruffled government feathers when its executive told an inquiry into fly-in, fly-out mining that as it paid its taxes it was the government's role to supply the infrastructure.

In his opening speech to the House of Representatives inquiry held in Melbourne, Rio Tinto's chief adviser for government relations, Mark O'Neill, said health services, education and housing were vital and needed to be improved in mining areas.

Mr O'Neill said Rio Tinto paid about $5 billion in income tax plus a further $2 billion in state royalties.

He told the committee, chaired by independent MP Tony Windsor, that fly-in or drive-in commuters would remain an essential option to the industry if services, housing and the level of local skills were not up to standard.

"It is worth noting here that governments do have a responsibility to adjust to changes in demographics and geographic demand for the basic services they have traditionally been responsible for delivering," Mr O'Neill said.

He added that government revenues had clearly increased with more mining, but "it is less clear that service delivery in some areas has kept pace with that".

Deputy chair Steve Gibbons reportedly told the hearing mining companies appeared happy to leave governments to deal with the consequences of mining, rather than work to help.

Mr O'Neill was joined by his Rio Tinto colleagues from the Pilbara in WA and Clermont in Central Queensland.

The inquiry also heard from resources industry groups AusIMM and the Australian Mines and Metals Association.


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