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

BHP calls on government to push up Australia's productivity

CENTRAL Queensland's Bowen Basin mines will need to run harder, faster and cheaper if they are to compete against an emerging China.

Speaking in Melbourne, BHP Billiton's chief executive Andrew Mackenzie called on lawmakers to push up Australia's productivity.

Mr Mackenzie replaced Marius Kloppers in May, although Mr Kloppers remains with BHP until October.

The focus on productivity has been echoed by every major mining house, with cost-cutting a large part of the agenda.

In the past 12 months, more than 7000 jobs have been shed from the Queensland industry, but the BHP boss said there was a greater good to consider.

As the overheating of Queensland's coalmining boom is replaced with a cooler, more measured increase in demand, he said Australia must be ready to keep up.

The world will need 75% more resources before 2030 as 250 million Chinese move from rural climes into its sprawling cities.

"Steel consumption is expected to increase by over 50% in the next 10 years with more than half of this in Asia," Mr Mackenzie said.

"Only a handful of countries, of which Australia is one, can currently deliver the volume of resources required for Asia's continued economic growth.

"But Australia must compete hard against existing and emerging suppliers.

"China is now a low-cost producer of metallurgical (steel-making) coal and competes effectively with Queensland's Bowen Basin."

Mr Mackenzie said Australia was in "pole position" to capitalise on the Asian boom, with the skills, experience and proximity to capture the emerging markets.

But it would not be enough unless we performed better, he said.

"History shows: get this right and Australia and Asia benefit."

BHP Billiton is currently building the Caval Ridge mine near Moranbah.

Once complete, it will partly own 10 coalmines in Central Queensland.