Debate rages as new coal loader goes online

Filed under Infrastructure, Port & Shipping ~ by Press on  16 Mar 2010

A war of words accompanied the first coal train delivering export coal to Newcastle’s new billion-dollar coal loader.

As Ports and Waterways Minister Paul McLeay lauded the “significant achievement,” a Sydney Morning Herald article sparked a ferocious exchange between Greens Lee Rhiannon and a defensive NSW Minerals Council CEO Dr Nikki Williams.

In the SMH article “Misgivings over minerals boom” Jessica Irvine asked:

But what price success?

Even as the boom takes hold, questions are being asked. Is it too good to be true? When this minerals boom deflates, as it inevitably will, what legacy will it leave? What industries will have been squeezed out? What damage will have been caused to the environment and the health of local populations?

To which Ms Rhiannon opportunely asked:

.. the NSW government to take climate change seriously and consider long-term regional jobs growth by putting the brakes on the rapidly expanding coal industry.

This brought two responses from Dr Williams, the first at Ms Rhiannon:

NSW Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon proved she was out of touch with regional NSW today by calling on the Government to “put the brakes” on jobs growth in the coal industry

The second (referencing a story apparently not online) ‘Counting the cost of the new black magic bonanza.’ Disputing it, Dr Williams said:

Mining, like all types of development, has impacts. The industry is constantly innovating to control and minimise those impacts.

Finally, with good timing, Bickham Coal added:

New economic research shows that jobs created from the proposed Bickham Coal Mine may be significantly greater than previously estimated. Research undertaken by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation (HVRF) shows that the 36 million tonne mine could add as many as 386 jobs to the Hunter Region economy, 286 of which would be full time jobs.

The full media releases follow in order below.

First export coal delivered to new 3rd coal loader

The new billion-dollar third coal export terminal in the Port of Newcastle accepted its first trainload of coal for export today.

Ports and Waterways Minister Paul McLeay said this was a significant achievement for NCIG and its shareholders.

In January the NSW Government brought the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Agreement into effect, providing industry with certainty and security.”

From this NCIG and its shareholders committed over $1-billion to increase the capacity of the Hunter’s export coal chain.”

The building of Stage One of this terminal has made a notable contribution to the regional and state economy. When it reaches full capacity of 30 million tonnes a year the value of New South Wales exports will rise by $3-billion.”

Minister for the Hunter and Member for Newcastle, Jodi McKay, said the increased capacity at the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group was great news for the region.

Up to 800 people have been working at NCIG each day thanks to the recent expansion,” Ms McKay said.

These jobs are great news for families in the Hunter and the flow-on effect they have to the region’s economy is very welcome.”

NCIG General Manager Paul Beale said the process of commissioning the massive and complex terminal will take some time.

We’ve been busy, but it will take some time to ramp up through 2010 to our full capacity.”

Over the past three weeks NCIG has received 12 trains or 80,000 tonnes of ‘sacrificial’ coal,” Mr Beale said.

More information:

• The coal was hauled by QRN, from Wambo Mine [owned by Peabody Energy Australia] near Jerrys Plains

• The first trainload of export coal was 7,200 tonnes

• NCIG was formed in 2005 – the members of NCIG are significant coal producers.

• Partners in the project include BHP Billiton (through Hunter Valley Energy Coal), Centennial Coal, Donaldson Coal, Peabody Energy Australia Coal, Felix Resources (Yanzhou Coal) and Whitehaven Coal.

• NCIG won the right to construct and operate a third loader, with a capacity of up to 66 million tones per year in the Port of Newcastle.

• Construction of Stage One, with capacity up to 30 million tonnes a year, began in October 2007 and has cost $1-billion.

Coal industry – time for a transition plan

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has called on the NSW government to take climate change seriously and consider long-term regional jobs growth by putting the brakes on the rapidly expanding coal industry. ( SMH article )

The Greens are calling on the NSW government to develop a transition plan from coal mining and coal fired power to clean sustainable jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency technology," Ms Rhiannon said.

In NSW coal mines are being approved at a record rate.

The Hunter and other traditional coal mining areas do not gain the same jobs benefit that was once associated with this industry.

The high level of coal mining mechanisation means jobs growth has slowed.

Coal industry expansion makes it much harder for clean energy manufacturing to establish. This is where long-term jobs growth lies.

Premier Kristina Keneally and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should stop the multi-million dollar subsidises that the coal industry receives every year.

These handouts go to multinational companies that send the bulk of their profits overseas.

The Rudd Government plans to spend $580-million on the Hunter Valley coal rail line.

The rail infrastructure through the s has been built to help speed up exports and facilitate the coal rush on prime farming land in the Gunnedah, Mudgee and Upper Hunter regions," Ms Rhiannon said.

Lee Rhiannon out of touch with regional NSW: A response to Greens anti-mining campaign

NSW Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon proved she was out of touch with regional NSW today by calling on the Government to “put the brakes” on jobs growth in the coal industry, NSW Minerals Council CEO Dr Nikki Williams said today.

What does Ms Rhiannon’s call for a transition to a no-mining NSW mean?

  1. 55,000 direct jobs in mining and minerals processing GONE
  2. 200,000 indirect jobs supported by the mining industry GONE
  3. $2,000 in weekly (average) wages going back into pubs, hairdressers and hardware stores in communities like Singleton, Lithgow and Dapto GONE
  4. Billions of dollars in payments to local suppliers every year GONE
  5. An affordable and secure energy source that powers the State GONE

It seems that Ms Rhiannon is again overlooking a series of inconvenient truths and will say whatever it takes to get a headline in her anti-mining campaign,” Dr Williams said.

By helping to generate wealth and opportunity in the community, the mining industry is playing a role in developing diverse and sustainable regional economies that can flourish into the future.

If Ms Rhiannon was genuine in her concern for our regional communities, she would be backing rather than trying to kill off an industry that supports thousands of working families across the State,” said Dr Williams.

Response to Sydney Morning Herald story ‘Counting the cost of the new black magic bonanza’

The mining industry is committed to innovation and promoting leading practice to reduce its impact on the environment, NSW Minerals Council CEO Dr Nikki Williams said today.

Responding to the story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Williams said:

Mining, like all types of development, has impacts. The industry is constantly innovating to control and minimise those impacts.

A range of techniques are used to reduce the amount of dust from mining operations, including minimising truck movements and using water sprays on roadways and stockpiles. The mining industry is also working with the NSW Government and power generators to establish the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network to give the community and regulators better and timely access to information about air quality in the region.

The mining industry is improving rehabilitation to reduce visual impacts during operations, such as better engineering techniques for landscape design and successful re-vegetation. Xstrata has successfully remediated land affected by 150 years of mining at Newcastle’s New Wallsend No.2 Colliery, including the re-establishment of Maryland Creek using new bio-engineering techniques. The University of Newcastle has used it as a successful case study in its engineering syllabus.

The government determines how land will be used after mining. Each mine operation has to undertake rehabilitation during and after mining to meet the performance criteria set by government for this ultimate land use.

The NSW Government has collected more than $1 billion in environmental securities from mining companies. These deposits cover the full rehabilitation costs of exploration and mining in the event that a company could not meet its commitments.

The mining industry is the most heavily regulated in NSW and it meets the very strict rules set by the government. It also has to operate in line with the community’s expectations, which set the standard even higher and which it strives to meet.

The State’s mineral resources are owned by the people of NSW, not by mining companies. Governments, not companies, make decisions on land use, based on what is best for the whole State. That doesn’t mean every resource will be developed. Whether it’s a housing estate, infrastructure, agricultural land clearing, horse breeding or mining, any impacts are assessed against the economic and social benefits that a given project will generate.

  • More than 30,000 people are employed directly in mining in NSW and 25,000 more in minerals processing. The industry returned $1.28 billion to the people of NSW through royalty payments in 2008-09, an increase of more than 260% in just three years.

The latest environmental attitudes survey from the Hunter Valley Research Foundation found 60% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the benefits from the coal industry in the Upper Hunter outweighed any impacts. 24% didn’t think the benefits outweighed the impacts.

Research indicates Bickham to deliver more jobs than expected

New economic research shows that jobs created from the proposed Bickham Coal Mine may be significantly greater than previously estimated.

Research undertaken by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation (HVRF) shows that the 36 million tonne mine could add as many as 386 jobs to the Hunter Region economy, 286 of which would be full time jobs.

This surpasses New South Wales Department of Planning estimates of 100 full time and 200 indirect jobs.

The HVRF research also reaffirms the economic benefits the mine would deliver, concluding there would be a boost of up to $150 million to the Hunter economy annually, or 3.7 billion dollars over the 25 year life of the mine.

The HVRF says that royalties from the mine – paid to the state government and used to fund vital public infrastructure and services – could exceed an estimated $216.4 million.

The HVRF notes that while the entire Hunter population increased by 8.6 percent between 1996 and 2006, the Upper Hunter population decreased by 7.8 percent over the same period.

During this ten year period, the number of people in one age group – the working age population (25-39 year olds) – fell by about 24 percent.

Although the Upper Hunter population grew more recently (2001 – 2006), the HVRF says the Bickham project could help continue this recent trend by drawing employees to the local area – particularly those in the working age population.

It is expected that most employees will be male and new recruits that are likely to bring their families with them.

Bickham Coal Director John Richards said the information gives hope to many people in the Upper Hunter who want heavy industry and job opportunities to proceed.

We have always said we will employ local people where possible, and it’s welcome news that we may be able to create many more local jobs than first anticipated,” Mr Richards said.

At times it is difficult to keep count of how many people are contacting us to ask about job opportunities.

We can only ask that people be patient as the planning process continues.”

Mr Richards said the company was cooperating with the independent Planning Assessment Commission Panel appointed by the Department of Planning last year.

The Panel is considering water management and protection issues relevant to the proposed mine, and will also hear general community views in a public forum in Scone on March 17 and 18.

The Panel is scheduled to report to the Department of Planning next month.

Bickham is asking that the proposed mine be subjected to rigorous Major Project assessment like all other New South Wales mining projects.

The company has already completed a precursory water study at the request of the Department of Planning. Delivered by some of Australia’s foremost water experts, it is one of the most exhaustive mining project water studies undertaken in Australia.

In 2008 the Company reduced the mine size by 25 percent and shifted the boundaries further away from local waterways to put perceptions of possible environmental impacts beyond doubt.

Given that we’ve spent more than 10 million dollars following various planning processes since acquiring the site in 2002, we are hopeful of proceeding to full assessment soon and delivering this economic opportunity to the Upper Hunter,” Mr Richards said.

You would struggle to find a mining project anywhere in Australia that has been scrutinised as closely as the Bickham project, which is why we are at pains to deliver a project that’s economically beneficial and environmentally responsible.”



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