A Sydney demonstrator holds a placard to protest against Santos' plans for a major coal seam gas field near Narrabri, in northwestern NSW, last August.
A Sydney demonstrator holds a placard to protest against Santos' plans for a major coal seam gas field near Narrabri, in northwestern NSW, last August.

‘Lying greenies killing our mining industry’

MINING bosses have issued a dire warning that greenies behind the "Tofu Curtain" and mountains of red and green tape will make it impossible for new projects in some of Queensland's most successful industries to be built in the future.

Coal, gas and bauxite executives have painted a bleak picture for their industries, which prop up Queensland's economy to the tune of about $55 billion and employ 38,000 people.

They say the fossil fuel industry has become "the new tobacco", and ill-informed activism from West End and Melbourne greenies, legal challenges and red and green tape meant the projects that contributed to the state's prosperity could not be built today.

"My battle is in West End and Melbourne," the head LNG producer, APLNG's chief executive Warwick King told a recent BDO-The Courier-Mail function.

Former QGC boss Richard Cottee called it the "Tofu Curtain" that divides the green inner-city suburbs from the rest of Queensland.

Mr Cottee, who started the coal seam gas industry in Queensland, said the industry was losing the argument.

 

Mining bosses believe there is an existential threat to the industry.
Mining bosses believe there is an existential threat to the industry.

 

"One way the industry is going wrong is it still thinking in terms of facts and truth," he said.

"We still deal in facts and science when they (activists) are using emotion.

"The narrative is that we should get rid of this 'new tobacco' industry and concentrate on what is more uplifting. It's not the new tobacco. It's not the new gaming."

Mr Cottee said there was "no logic that will ever prevail" that would allow Australia's top exporters to ever create export income.

"I've been linked with helping create CSG. That couldn't happen now. The rules keep on changing and regulation keeps on increasing," he said.

The State Government's Resources Investment Commissioner Todd Harrington said the industry had lost young adults.

"I know kids in my community in Brisbane … I can't engage with a 20-year-old at a barbecue about resources - they are so polarised with the green view," he said.

"I reckon there needs to be a focus on kids under 10, because their eyes are open to what is taught to them."

Their comments were backed by federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan, who said energy costs were at such a level a new refinery or smelter would not be viable and, without coal and gas, the Queensland Government would be even further in debt.

 

Melbourne protesters target Adani at a mining conference last November.
Melbourne protesters target Adani at a mining conference last November.

 

"(The) current wholesale price of electricity would not support an aluminium smelter," he said.

"Indeed it would put at risk most of the investments in refining. This is a lot of jobs. It should be natural advantage for Australia.

"If we didn't have a gas industry in Queensland, we would be running out of gas and if we didn't have coal the Queensland Government debt would be in a much worse position and they would not be able to fund at all some of the initiatives they've announced in the past week."

But state Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said there was a high level of confidence in the future of the Queensland resources sector.

He said there were 13 committed projects valued at more than $9.4 billion and 42 projects at the feasibility stage, valued at a potential $61 billion.

"The community now expects much more from the resources industry than in its infancy and it is important that the Government has appropriate rules in place to allow not only a balance but a prosperous resources industry in co-existence with other users of the land," he said.

Origin is a partner in APLNG, and its former chief executive Grant King has previously said that if the green activist tactics deployed against coal projects had also been used against the gas sector, "we would have been unlikely to have seen the creation of an entirely new LNG export industry".

 

Warwick King
Warwick King

 

 

Duane Woodbury
Duane Woodbury

 

 

 

Bauxite producer Metro Mining's Duane Woodbury said energy costs were crippling industry and made the prospect of smelters and refineries virtually impossible because Australia had gone from the among the cheapest energy markets to the third most expensive.

"The cost of building an alumina refinery in China is terrifyingly cheap. Power is terrifyingly cheap," he said.

"We could never duplicate that in Australia. And it's not just labour costs. It's electricity, it's everything.

"Who wants to spend $1 billion building a new Yabulu, or whatever, given what's happened."

They blamed subsidies to renewables for blowing out energy costs as well as the "gold plating" of electricity infrastructure.

Last year Boyne Smelter, at Gladstone, was forced into significant production cuts because of rising energy costs.

New Hope Group's Shane Stephan said his $900 million Acland coal mine expansion was facing another potential 10 to 12-month delay in the courts, adding to the 11 years it has taken to get it this far.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the "lawfare" waged in the courts by green groups was "spooking everyone".

State Gas's Lucy Snelling said there had been a raft of regulation over the past year in the gas industry.

"Low-cost exploration … you simply can't do it," she said

State Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the LNP would again speed up approvals for major resource projects.

"When in government the LNP halved the average approval time for major projects," she said.


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