Science, safety and technological advancements in the resource industry

Sir Alfred Nobel, the inventor of explosive technologies such as dynamite and detonators, read his own obituary mistakenly printed in a French newspaper.

Confusing him for his brother Ludvig, the newspaper published an obituary titled "The merchant of death is dead".

He was devastated that he would be remembered this way, so decided to leave the majority of his wealth to found a series of prizes to advance peace, science and literature. These became the Nobel prizes.

Fast forward 131 years, I'm intrigued to learn about the advancements in blasting and mining since Sir Alfred was experimenting with nitro-glycerin.

Last week I travelled to Queensland to visit a copper mine in Mount Isa, a coal mine and a solar farm in Moranbah, and an alumina plant and mining services facility in Gladstone.

It was incredible to tour these facilities and see how far research has come and the investment that is going into advancement and safety.

The Rugby Run solar farm is run by Adani - one of the world's biggest renewables companies, despite the much publicised Carmichael coal mine. They are putting a lot of research into solar and how it intersects with our electricity grid.

Peak Downs in Moranbah is a BHP owned open cut coal mine that supplies coal for steel making. BHP employs around 39,000 people across Australia and in the past 10 years has paid around $71 billion in taxes, royalties and other payments to Australian governments.

The final day was spent at Gladstone inspecting the Rio Tinto owned Yarwun Alumina Refinery which takes bauxite (a rusty coloured clayey rock) from Weipa and the Northern Territory, and refines it to a fine white powder called alumina.

This alumina is sent to aluminium refineries across Australia and the world to make aluminium. It actually makes the little Apple logo on the back of iPhones.

Locally, Tomago Aluminium (which employs 1000 people) uses this alumina to make 255 of Australia's primary aluminium.

The final afternoon was spent at Orica looking at the making of explosives for mining and sodium cyanide which is used to process gold - a necessary component of much modern technology including phones, computers, medical diagnostics and treatment.

Orica was founded in 1874, around the time Sir Alfred was doing much of his experimentation.

Today, it's the world's largest provider of commercial explosives and blasting systems to the mining, quarrying, oil and gas, and construction markets; a leading supplier of sodium cyanide for gold extraction; and a specialist provider of ground support services in mining and tunnelling.

Here, I met man who recently moved to Gladstone from Maitland with his young family.

We chatted about science, safety and technological advancement, as well as Orica Kurri Kurri.

The message I took home was that mining and its associated industries attracts a lot of smart people who care about how we live and our environment.

It's a modern, rapidly evolving industry that delivers so much to so many.

From Nobel till now it has much to give.

 Meryl Swanson is the Member for Paterson. Contact her electorate office at 35 Sturgeon Street, Raymond Terrace on 4983 2401 or email meryl.swanson.mp@aph.gov.au