Twiggy gives A$65m to WA Universities

Tuesday, 15 October, 2013

Mining entrepreneur Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest is possibly the story of the mining boom. In the early 00’s he came from suffering some reputational hurt with Anaconda Nickel to founding Fortescue Metals Group (“FMG”), an exporter of iron ore (predominantly to China) from the Pilbara region of Australia. FMG is of course one of the most successful new mining companies globally and its growth encompasses a decade where canny development of the correct assets to feed the Chinese infrastructure boom reaped significant rewards. We also recently reported FMG’s work on one of the largest economic empowerment schemes ever undertaken with indigenous communities in Australia, creating new service companies to provide support to the Pilbara mining operations.

Now a billionaire, Forrest has today committed to give $65 million dollars to Western Australian Universities. He has also pledged, with his wife, to give half his wealth away while he's still alive - an idea possibly taken from a certain elite group headed by the Sage of Omaha and that other guy who lives in Seattle. Forrest has decided the funds will be spread across five major universities in WA - apposite for a guy with a family that has deep roots in Western Australia.

While Perth has boomed over the decade (hence the notorious stories of twenty bucks for a schooner - i.e. lots of cash for beer) a more serious debate has been ongoing about lack of reinvestment from federal coffers in the massive state. Criticism is often aimed towards Canberra - admittedly from WA - that alleges the profits from mining go east and the essential road, water, power networks needed to diversify the local infrastructure (WA: local?) have not been met. With a small population, intellectual capital and development for individuals in the Western State may well be a key element for the region over the next forty years.