Challenges and Threats to Regional Security in Australias North West

Added by on June 12, 2011

The region’s population, iron ore, hydrocarbon and critical infrastructure will become increasingly vital, and accordingly at risk over the course of the next decade.

By 2020, the Pilbara’s population is expected to reach 62,000, primarily concentrated in the newly developed ‘Karratha City’ and ‘Port City’ (Port Hedland). The demographic transition from the current widely dispersed population of 45,000, to the Pilbara Cities vision of highly concentrated regional communities, leaves the populace more exposed to potential hazards and threats.

In addition to the residential population, the expansion of the resources sector will increase the number of transient fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers drawing services from the Pilbara cities and satellite towns. In the event of a catastrophic incident, this additional transient population will increase the pressure on already strained critical services and amenities.

Current expansion in the iron ore industry is projected to continue. Sustained urbanisation and industrialisation in Asia will bolster current projects, lead to an expansion of new mines and create market opportunities for junior players. While risk management and employee safety will remain a paramount tenet of the industry, mining remains an inherently dangerous industry with the threat of industrial accidents, exposure to natural disasters and human acts of violence remaining constant.

Projected expansion of the offshore hydrocarbon industry with the Gorgon, Pluto and Wheatstone projects, along with the complementary onshore facilities, such as the Ashburton North Industrial Estate, will bolster the regional profile. The Pilbara’s oil and gas sector is projected to expand throughout the decade, continuing as a prime source of employment and revenue for stakeholders in the region. As current projects advance and are augmented by further developments in the industry, the susceptibilities within the sector will also dramatically rise.

The continued development of the Pilbara will depend upon the effective functioning of critical infrastructure and supply management networks, to provide regional employment, sustain private profits and continue economic diversification. The region’s growing role as an area of strategic importance is accompanied with an increased sense of vulnerability to existing, as well as emerging threats.