In this edition of Queensland Mining and Energy Bulletin we talk to our state’s new Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Dr Anthony Lynham, about the way forward for Queensland’s resources sector.
While mining communities in central and north west Queensland are very supportive of your opposition towards 100 per cent FIFO employment practices, how does your government plan to address the issue of housing affordability in these towns?
The government committed to reviewing all existing 100 per cent FIFO approvals within the first 100 days of office.
This review will be underway shortly and will make recommendations on the best way forward for Queensland’s regional resource communities and its workers. The review will be sufficiently broad to allow for the reviewers to consider all aspects associated with FIFO, including housing affordability.
The Palaszczuk Government has already established a Parliamentary Inquiry by the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee into FIFO with the Committee to present its report to the Legislative Assembly by 30 September 2015.
Just before the last state election, the Newman Government announced a strategy to open up the Cooper Basin in the far south west of the state. Does your government plan to implement a similar strategy?
The Cooper Basin is one of the most prospective areas in Queensland for natural gas and oil development. The Government is considering how the sustainable development of these resources can be undertaken in a responsible manner.
I recently visited the Cooper Basin and spoke with my counterparts in South Australia about the approach they are taking. There are opportunities for greater collaboration with South Australia to facilitate the development of these resources and I am keen to build a partnership between our two states to ensure these opportunities are realised.
This will be important as the Cooper Basin could provide the energy we need to ensure demand in the east coast gas market is met and ensure further feedstock for the state’s burgeoning liquefied natural gas industry.
Why did your government re-introduce the ban on uranium mining in Queensland just three years after the prohibition was lifted by the previous government?
It has been long-standing Labor Party policy in Queensland not to support the mining of uranium. There have been no applications for leases to develop or mine uranium.
While campaigning earlier this year, the now Premier, Anastacia Palaszczuk promised the people of the north-west that her government would help the Mount Isa copper smelter stay open until 2020 by addressing some regulatory burdens. Will your government be following through on this promise?
I can confirm the Labor Government will stand by its commitment to work with Glencore to extend the life of the Mount Isa Copper Smelter beyond 2016. Employment and job security is a priority for this Government, and the continued operation of the Mount Isa Copper Smelter will support over 900 direct and indirect jobs in regional Queensland.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has been working closely with Glencore to address issues involved in progressing the necessary approvals to allow the smelter to continue operations until 2020.
The government will ensure that air quality limits that are developed with Glencore will provide the necessary investment confidence to extend the operation of the copper smelter, while ensuring the health and wellbeing of the Mt Isa community is protected.
There’s some uncertainty in the sector about the viability of mine projects planned for the Galilee Basin due to the high cost of developing the area. What strategies will your government employ to help the Galilee Basin move forward?
The Queensland Government welcomes interest from overseas investors such as the Indian companies GVK and Adani, in the development of the Galilee Basin.
The government strongly supports the development of the Galilee Basin in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. We expect companies to be able to fully finance their own projects, and will work with those companies to assist them with bringing those projects to fruition.
Adani has clearly stated the project has a strong business case and will still proceed.
We are keenly aware of the potential benefits to the Queensland economy in terms of jobs, economic development and royalties.
We will do everything we can, short of providing funding, to support the opening up of the Galilee Basin. For example, we recently announced the alternative dredge placement strategy for Abbot Point, which is a clear demonstration of our commitment to the infrastructure that will enable the development of the Galilee Basin coal mines.
Activism is proving to be one of the greatest obstacles facing the mining sector, as seen during the approval process for the proposed expansion of the Port of Abbot Point coal terminal. How will your government bring balance back to the debate and prevent projects being tied up in court for years?
Queensland is fortunate to have extensive natural resources and a strong resource sector. Resource projects make a significant contribution to Queensland’s economy. Queensland Treasury advised that in 2013- 14, mining contributed $27.4 billion to the Queensland economy in terms of gross value added and directly employed 79,000 persons. It is this revenue that the government uses to build new hospitals, schools and other infrastructure that the community needs.
The government has stated it strongly supports the rights of communities and landholders to be consulted on mine developments, and for them to have the opportunity to have their concerns addressed during the assessment of new projects.
However, some stakeholders are opposed to any further mining or development of new coal, mineral or gas projects and have campaigned strongly to oppose any development. Given the complexity of many of these major resource projects, significant resources are required to hear all of the matters by the Land Court, and this can mean that matters take many months to resolve at great cost to the parties and the government.
The government is committed to undertaking a review of the amendments to the Mineral Resources Act 1989 and the Environmental Protection Act 1994 in relation to the notification and objections process for mining projects. This review will seek to put in place a process that balances both the legitimate interests of landholders and the community and one that maintains efficient assessment processes for resource related projects.
With Linc Energy currently facing environmental and health and safety charges in the courts over their underground coal gasification project near Chinchilla, what do you see as the future for the controversial technology in this state?
The government will obviously be guided by the outcomes of the current DEHP investigation and the ongoing and subsequent legal proceedings.
It is too early to say anything further about future government decisions about whether or not to allow the development of a commercial UCG industry in Queensland.
“We will do everything we can, short of providing funding, to support the opening up of the Galilee Basin.”