The minerals industry isn’t going anywhere. It will only get bigger. The human appetite for resources shows no signs of abating. Technology and innovation, population and economic growth will only make that appetite stronger.
Indigenous people aren’t going anywhere either and our population is also getting bigger. Minerals extraction means engaging with Indigenous people. Indigenous Australians have ownership or other rights over 20 per cent of the continent, including most areas where mining occurs. And there’s still native title claims to be concluded and compensatory funds to be invested.
Socio-economically, there’s a big gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Demographically, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia are like two different countries – the demographics of Australia are typical of developed economies; the demographics of Indigenous Australia resemble developing economies.
In 10 years there’ll be nearly a million Indigenous Australians. Our population is growing at more than 2 per cent per year compared to Australia’s population at closer to 1.5 per cent per year. To put that in perspective, India’s population growth over that period will be about 1.2 per cent per year and Nigeria’s 2.6 per cent. The median age of Indigenous people is about 22 years, compared to about 37 for the non-Indigenous population. The population pyramid for Indigenous Australians looks like those of developing economies, wide at the bottom and narrow at the top.
Population distribution is also different. Indigenous people are disproportionately represented in the sparsely populated areas where most mining occurs, and increasingly so. By 2040, Indigenous Australians will make up half the population of northern Australia, for example.
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