Get Loud for the Galilee

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Bowen Basin Mining Club

Bowen Basin Mining Club director Jodie Currie has been advocating for the opening of the Galilee Basin – from the BBQ to the boardroom.


In recent months, I have seen encouraging conversations emerge around the future of the mining industry in Australia. Contractors, suppliers and proponents alike have all truly begun adjusting to a ‘new normal’, and as we get closer to working out what that looks like, the Galilee Basin is a topic that continues to be of particular significance.

When Adani presented at a recent Bowen Basin Mining Club luncheon, a collaborative fact sheet was distributed to attendees (and can be found here: www.bit.ly/GalileeFacts). This fact sheet focused on the importance of opening up the Galilee Basin, and why we as an industry need to do our part to clarify common mistruths, in settings from the backyard barbeque to the boardroom. This article aims to expand on that thought, and give you a few talking points for the next time you are presented with an opportunity to ‘talk shop’ to those less well-acquainted with our industry.

We are all familiar with the Bowen Basin – Queensland’s current coal production powerhouse. But the lesser-known Galilee Basin is one of the world’s largest untapped thermal coal resources, with nine mines proposed for the 247,000 square kilometre area in Queensland’s west. To give you an idea of its scale, if all nine mines were operating, Australia’s coal export capacity would effectively double.

Currently, the most advanced project in the Galilee Basin is Adani’s Carmichael mine, despite continuing opposition and litigious disputes. Other proposals at various stages of completion include GVK’s Alpha Coal project and Clive Palmer’s China First mine. The Galilee Basin is not without controversy, but its importance is something that often takes a back seat.

One way to break it down is to discuss why the Galilee Basin is important for you, for regional communities, for the wider mining industry and even for Queensland and Australia as a whole.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ME?

You may think that unless you plan to work in the Galilee Basin or supply to the Galilee Basin, there will be very little impact on you whether or not it goes ahead. However, consider the effect on the broader economy when the mining industry is prospering. There is more money to be spent, giving business confidence a boost. House prices and bank lending are stronger, and the economy is growing – this benefits almost everyone.

Of course, if you do plan to work in or supply to the Galilee Basin, then this means increased job opportunities, a chance to provide for your family, and a work destination that’s not on the other side of the country. Even with just the Carmichael mine operating, coal-related operational employment in Queensland is predicted to increase by over 10 per cent – without taking any construction-related jobs into account (source: The Conversation).

Don’t believe the misinformation about there being no jobs in the Galilee Basin for Australians – Downer Group, Adani’s principal contractors for Carmichael, have confirmed plans to set up recruitment centres for local talent in Townsville, Rockhampton and Mackay. Downer are the ones who will be recruiting, not Adani, and they will be employing locally.

As for potential suppliers to the Galilee Basin – now is the time to get prepared and present yourself in the best possible light. Innovate, collaborate and find new ways to work together with your peers. Joint ventures and collaborative enterprises will be very attractive to contractors looking to get the ultimate value for money.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR COMMUNITIES?

The remoteness of the Galilee Basin is one of the major reasons that development has not already progressed on a larger scale. The infrastructure required to build an operating and exporting mine (roads, water, rail and ports) are not yet in place, although these approvals are one of the last hurdles for Adani to clear.

When a mine starts, it’s not just the workers and immediate suppliers of equipment, transport and construction who benefit. The supply chain extends to catering, facilities, consumables, communications, waste removal, landscaping, cleaning and more. Once those businesses take on extra work to support the new mine, they in turn create work for accountants, lawyers, professional services, real estate, office equipment suppliers – even down to the grocery store and the pie van!

The whole community benefits – and in rural Queensland where the Galilee Basin will have the most impact, this is a good thing. Clermont is the closest town to the proposed Carmichael mine, but projects further south in the Galilee Basin will be closer to Emerald. The Carmichael project is expected to have a lifespan of up to 60 years, nearly double that of existing Bowen Basin mines – imagine the stability that can bring to a community like Clermont or Emerald.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE INDUSTRY?

Rather than staying silent, the mining industry should be louder than ever in its calls for government support when it comes to Galilee Basin approvals and infrastructure.

Now is the perfect time to build a mine. Staff are available, equipment is relatively cheap, and innovation is revolutionising the industry. The industry has shifted to a more stable model, where costs are the driver of business, creating savings for sellers and buyers alike. And who knows this the best? We do, of course.

Opening up the Galilee Basin provides diversification for our industry – we will have three basins of coal to export from, rather than just two. The benefits provided in better port and rail infrastructure will also have a ripple effect on the industry as a whole. We have learned valuable lessons in the recent market conditions, and this will serve us well in the Galilee Basin development phase.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA, & THE WORLD?

Mining already contributes to one in every five dollars of the Queensland economy and one in every six jobs, with only 0.1 per cent of our state’s land surface used by the sector (source: QRC).

Economic benefits from mining industry employees and suppliers flow on to have impacts on both state and federal government revenue, including royalties, income and company tax. These royalties and taxes go towards building roads, schools and hospitals, ultimately helping every Queenslander. An open Galilee Basin has clear flow-on effects to state and federal economies.

Turning to consider the environment, the Galilee Basin’s coal reserves are mainly thermal coal, ideal for developing nations struggling to end energy poverty.

Fossil fuels like the Galilee Basin’s thermal coal have the potential to quite literally save lives in the developing world. Energy provided by an inexpensive fossil fuel such as coal is able to lift living standards, lower dangerous indoor pollution, and provide clean water and safe heating. In fact, switching to coal-fired power actually reduces air pollution in these countries, where currently people burn manure to keep warm. Supplying coal for energy to developing countries changes the lives of people – and as an industry, we get to play a part in that.

Concern or opposition to the Basin on the premise of emissions reduction or environmental concerns is short-sighted at best and a zero-sum equation at worst – if the developing world doesn’t use Australia’s high-quality, low-ash thermal coal, they will be forced to use lower-quality, higher-ash coal from other countries.

Opening the Galilee Basin will provide longevity and stability to our coal mining industry, an economic boost to our state and country, and confidence for our small businesses and rural communities.

It’s time that the Queensland mining industry fought back against negativity – so next time you’re confronted by a naysayer, what are you going to tell them?

To give you an idea of its scale, if all nine mines were operating, Australia’s coal export capacity would effectively double.

10 FAST FACTS ABOUT THE CARMICHAEL PROJECT

  • Carmichael is insulated from global coal pricing and demand pressures via their ‘pit to plug’ strategy – all coal mined will be used for Adani’s power projects in India.
  • Adani is not a mining company, they’re an infrastructure company with mining assets.
  • 300,000 people die every year in India due to lack of energy access.
  • India is the second-largest importer of coal in the world, just to keep up with the rising demand for energy.
  • Australia’s high-energy, low-ash coal creates efficiencies for India’s supercritical coal-fired power plants.
  • Traditional Land Owner groups have worked with Adani to form an Indigenous Participation Plan that will create at least $250 million in benefits over 30 years.
  • For the Abbot Point Coal Terminal Expansion to go ahead, 29 strict environmental conditions must be met.
  • No dredging at all will occur in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
  • Adani has shown clear commitment by investing $3.1 billion already in developing the Carmichael project.
  • Downer Group will be responsible for recruiting employees for the Carmichael project, focusing on regional hubs including Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton.

JODIE CURRIE

DIRECTOR, Bowen Basin Mining Club

Jodie Currie is the director of the Bowen Basin Mining Club operating bi-monthly functions for the mining industry in Mackay, Moranbah and Emerald. The BBMC’s mission is to connect all levels of operation, supply and service delivery within the sector to create better outcomes through the provision of up to date information on projects and quality networking.

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For more information regarding the Bowen Basin Mining Club and upcoming speakers and events, visit bbminingclub.com.au.

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