SYDNEY, Sept 5 Asia's richest woman, mining
magnate Gina Rinehart, warned on Wednesday that Australia was
becoming too expensive for mining firms which she said could
hire workers for under $2 a day in Africa.
Rinehart's comments, promptly denounced by Prime Minister
Julia Gillard, coincide with growing concern about the strength
of Australia's mining boom in the face of weaker demand from
main customer China and tumbling prices of iron ore, its single
biggest export earner.
In the past week, Australia's Fortescue Metals Group Ltd
said it would slash capital spending by 25 percent and
wind back expansion plans, while BHP Billiton Ltd
has shelved a $20 billion copper and gold mine expansion
in Australia and put all other approvals worldwide on hold.
"The evidence is inarguable that Australia is becoming too
expensive and too uncompetitive to do export-oriented business,"
Rinehart told the Sydney Mining Club in a rare public
appearance. A video of her address was posted on the club's
"Africans want to work, and its workers are willing to work
for less than $2 per day," she said in the video. "Such
statistics make me worry for this country's future.
"We are becoming a high-cost and high-risk nation for
Rinehart, whom Forbes estimated to be worth $18 billion in
February, opposes a recently introduced mining tax as well as
taxes on carbon emissions, which has created tensions with
Rinehart has also called for miners to be allowed to bring
in foreign workers, and her company Hancock Prospecting was
granted government approval in May to hire just over 1,700
foreign construction workers for her Roy Hill project in Western
Gillard criticised Rinehart's remarks, saying the resources
sector was doing well and had an investment pipeline of $500
billion, of which nearly half was at an advanced stage.
"It's not the Australian way to toss people $2, to toss them
a gold coin, and then ask them to work for a day," Gillard told
reporters. "We support proper Australian wages and decent
Rinehart's remarks are the latest to target the Australian
economy. In a column published last week in a mining magazine,
Rinehart said Australians needed to complain less and to work
more if they wanted to be rich.
"There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire. If you're
jealous of those with more money don't just sit there and
complain, do something to make more money yourself," she wrote
in Australian Resources and Investment magazine. "Spend less
time drinking, smoking and socialising and more time working."
(Reporting by Damian Gill; editing by Miral Fahmy)