MERC Newsletter July 2019

Introduction

Delegates, here is the July 2019 MERC Newsletter.This newsletter has a lot of important information in it for you to read, please circulate this to your fellow Councillors and senior staff, so they can appreciate and understand the excellent work the Association and you are doing on behalf of your Council and community, with regard to mining and energy related matters.

 

Update on the Voluntary Planning Agreement Steering Committee

Another meeting of the Steering Committee is to be held 23 August 2019 to consider the position paper by MERC (to review Umwelt’s Worker Domicile Model and to identify any impacts which are not included in that model which MERC considers should be the subject of financial contributions through VPAs, plus the methodologies for their calculation).

The Committee agreed to work together to develop a VPA framework agreement (including scope and calculation methodologies) for consideration at the next Committee meeting. Both parties agreed that the future of the Committee should be considered if no substantive progress was made at the next meeting.

Resources for Regions (R4R) versus a Royalties for Regions – Media Release, etc.

MERC will continue to canvas the new NSW Government for changes to the current Resources for Regions program to resemble a Royalties for Regions one. There is widespread support for changing the existing program to a Royalties for Region program with a set percentage being allocated to mining and energy affected Councils for infrastructure, social and economic impact addressing.

Hon John Barilaro has advised he is unable to attend the MERC meeting on 9th August to discuss Resources for Regions reform, however he has organised for his Senior Policy Officer and Policy Officer to meet with a delegation from MERC to meet and discuss the current program and alternative approaches to ensure a reasonable return of royalties to invest inregional infrastructure programs. More later, but word is out that the imposition of the BCR requirement for  grants is to is to be reviewed and even probably wiped!

 

Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

Given the changes to the Planning and Environment portfolios in Cabinet recently (Hon Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning & Public Places) is back in charge of this very important portfolio, consequently, it is not known if RAF will be retained nor is it likely that a further meeting will be held within the next few months.

If it is scrapped, this will mean that a lot of important relevant information that delegate Cr Hasler (Gunnedah Shire Council) regularly relayed to MERC, will not occur, which will be a shame.

 

Next Meetings of Association for 2019

The next Executive Committee meeting will be on 8th August 2019 at 2pm and the Ordinary General Meeting next day on 9th August 2019 at 9am, both meetings will be held in the Club York second floor meeting rooms, 99 York St, Sydney, same as for the February meetings.

Mid Coast Council have now confirmed they will host the November meetings in Gloucester on 7/8th November 2019 and preliminary discussions with Donna Hudson from the Council regarding details, has been held. Accommodation options will be forwarded in due course. A tour for the the Thursday afternoon is being organised to a coal mine and an old gold mine with bush tucker sampling and a presentation on the recent Rocky Hill mine court case which prevented the mine from operating in a pristine area.

The General Manager from Mid Coast Council, Adrian Pannucio will be attending the MERC meeting on 9th August and will be distributing a welcome package promoting the visit and regional places to visit on the Mid Coast.

The meeting cycle for 2020 will be determined at the Annual General Meeting. Dates will be confirmed by the Executive in consultation with the host Councils, but by sticking with the pattern of second Thursday/Friday in the aforementioned months is what MERC is working on for your diaries.

 

Membership Campaign

The Association at its May meeting in 2018, adopted a Marketing Policy to ensure membership increases by targeting more renewable energy development affected LGA’s in NSW and to formalise and strengthen the membership campaign. If any delegates have any colleagues in Local Government that may be interested in being part of our voice, please contact the Executive Officer.

The Executive Officer is still pursuing Coonamble Shire Council and Brewarrina Shire Council following recent discussions with the respective Mayors plus invitations have been sent to Lake Macquarie City Council to also attend the next MERC meeting in Sydney in August 2019.

 

Speakers for next meetings of MERC

The Executive Officer has confirmed the following speakers for the meeting in Sydney 9th August 2019:

  • Felicity Greenway, DPIE, Acting Executive Director of the Ethics Unit to address delegates on the 19 recommendations of the Kaldas Review Report, which the DPIE have adopted all of them and progress with them;
  • Sarah Patience, DPIE, Senior Policy Officer, Legislative Updates on the Plain English Planning Guide;
  • Tony Corbett, Port of Newcastle, Trade & Business Development Manager, for an update on mineral movements out of the Port of Newcastle recent changes;
  • David Kitto, Executive Director, Resource Assessments and Business System, DPIE on his role and on any changes proposed with planning assessments;
  • Jessica Rossell, DPIE, Resources Planning and Geosciences for an update on their review of monitoring mining processes in NSW.

MERC is awaiting confirmation from the following speakers for future meetings:

  • Hon Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW, National Party;
  • Hon Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning & Public Spaces, Liberal Party;
  • Hon Matt Kean, Minister for Energy & Environment, Liberal Party;
  • Hon John Barilaro, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, Investment & Trade, Leader of NSW National Party.

Other relevant Opposition party members and government senior officers will also be pursued for meetings as required.

 

Life Membership Updates – Mitchell, Connor and Cr Brady OAM

Life membership badges, plaques and certificates will be presented to Cr Lilliane Brady OAM at the August Ordinary meeting in Sydney with Chris Connor opting for Gloucester in November 2019. Col has advised he is unable to attend due to urgent medical treatment on the day.

 

Coal Seam Gas Policy

The amended Coal Seam Gas Policy was adopted with some minor changes. However, a Notice of Motion has been submitted to the August meeting by Cr Mark Hall, Lachlan Shire Council, proposing that further changes be included in relation to the double casing of bores. He has presented a paper on the arguments for it for delegates consideration. Thereafter a copy of the amended policy will be forwarded to delegates for their information and/or consideration.

 

Research Fellowship Update

In recent discussions with the PhD student, arrangements are being made to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the UTS which will outline details on insurances, performance measures, exit strategies, roles, finances, etc. However discussions on the projects are yet to occur. Peter Dupen and Juan Castilla – Rho will address delegates at the August meeting on progress with the project, grant options and possible projects.

The NSW Minerals Council CEO has been approached about being part of this PhD project as a sponsor and the CEO requested a submission which has been forwarded to him. Since then, the Executive Officer, PhD student Peter and Professor Juan Castilla – Rho have been invited to present the case to the NSWMC CEO and Director of Planning who at this stage seem interested in sponsorship. Fingers crossed that they come on board.

 

NSW Minerals Council Health, Safety, Environment and Community Awards

The Executive Officer was invited to be on the judging panel of the subject awards for the Environment and Community categories with three other people with relevant backgrounds. An extensive judging process was undertaken on 26th June 2019 and the awards will be announced and presented on 5th August 2019. The Executive Officer will be in attendance as a guest an following is the finalists in the respective award categories.

 

Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

“NSW Minerals Council Mining Awards” Being held on 5 August 2019 and provided here for the information of delegates which demonstrates what can be done to improve the impact of mining in your community and mining affectcted LGA’s:

HEALTH EXCELLENCE

Glencore – Glencore’s Ravensworth Open Cut Mine is 25km from Singleton and provides over 520 jobs. In 2015, the mine was experiencing an unacceptable amount of fatigue-related incidents among haul-truck drivers and knew something had to be done. The mine implemented the “GuardVant OpGuard Fatigue Monitoring System” on the 54 haul trucks on the site, which monitors and alerts the operator if it detects fatigue.

The system works by looking for signs of micro-sleeping or lulls in activity. Using the system, the mine works with haul-truck drivers to investigate and mitigate lifestyle and other factors which may contribute to increased fatigue.  The GuardVant system has proven to be an effective technological system for monitoring operator fatigue at Ravensworth. A review six months after the system was implemented found a 450% increase in operators taking breaks to avoid fatigue.

This success at Ravensworth has resulted in the installation of the GuardVant system in haul trucks at all Glencore Coal Australia open-cut operations. 

 

Whitehaven Coal Given the dark, wet and rocky environment in underground mines, it’s no surprise that foot and ankle injuries are some of the most common experienced by miners.  In response to reports of foot, ankle and leg pain from the 300 strong workforce at Whitehaven Coal’s Narrabri Underground mine, the mine approached Gunnedah-based podiatrist Penny Crawford to design footwear which could replace the current gumboots that the miners were using. 

 Alongside a team of industrial designers, specialised manufacturers and traditional rubber boot craftsmen, Penny developed the WedgeTech Personalised Lock-Fit System. The System works by locking the foot into a stable position into the boot. After six months, the mine conducted a trial with miners wearing the specially made boots and found that 24 out of 25 participants would recommend the boots over other boots and their ratings for the boot far exceeded the ratings for non-Crawford boots.  Another trial 12 months later found that 75 percent of the original participants were still using the Crawford boot, where other boots would be worn through every four months.

Whitehaven Coal now plans to introduce these new boots more broadly on site and educate its workplace about proper footwear. 

 

SAFETY EXCELLENCE

Centennial CoalCentennial Coal’s Myuna Mine in west Lake Macquarie employs over 250 people. The mine uses the herringbone mining system, part of which requires a mesh strap to be attached to the ceiling every 1.5 metres to hang ventilation tubes. However, Centennial found that this method led to an increase in shoulder injuries which, in turn, led to delays in production.

In an effort to address these issues, the Myuna Innovations Team met with its workforce to develop an alternative approach, which led to the ‘Monorail Bracket System’ that hangs down from the mine ceiling, eliminating the need for miners to install anything above their heads.

The elimination of mesh, in favour of the brackets, drastically lowered operating costs by around $500,000 a year, increased productivity and, most importantly, enhanced the health and safety of Myuna Mine’s employees. 

Newcrest MiningNewcrest Mining’s Cadia Valley Operations outside of Orange is a major employer in the Central West region. Providing hundreds of direct jobs and supporting hundreds more across the local economy. When a rolling R29000 bucket dislodged a crane travelling beam from its rails during maintenance, causing it to collapse, the team at Cadia Valley Operations knew things had to change to ensure the safety of maintenance crews.

After extensive research, the Cadia team couldn’t find a purpose-built Bucket Rotational Stand on the market – so they decided to design and build one themselves.  The manoeuvrability of the bucket in the Rotational Stand allows maintenance personnel safer and more effective access to work areas, eliminating the need to climb on top of the bucket or work in positions that are ergonomically challenging.

In the ten months since the Bucket Rotational Stand was commissioned for use, all bucket repairs have been carried out on site, resulting in improved workflows, lower costs and significantly lower risk to workers.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL EXCELLENCE

Whitehaven Coal Whitehaven Coal’s use of ecological burns in their approved Biodiversity Offsets for its Maules Creek Coal Mine in Boggabri is demonstrating leading practice for the dual purpose of ecological restoration and bushfire hazard mitigation. Since 2013, Whitehaven has been trialing ecological burns, using experienced and capable professional hazard reduction fire contractors.  This means the ecological burns are implemented competently and safely with the support of key regulators and the community. 

Standard methods of ground preparation for revegetation, like ‘ripping’ and ‘mounding’, can disturb existing native vegetation, impacting the woodland/grassland condition and allowing weeds into the Biodiversity Offsets. Ecological burns involve using fire to control exotic species and promote native flora species diversity, with fire being an important and often beneficial form of disturbance in woodlands. Ecological burns during late autumn and winter are cool, low-intensity fires that remove dry material but do not scorch native grasses and trees.

The results show that Whitehaven Coal is delivering actual biodiversity outcomes from ecological burn management.

Yancoal Australia – Located in the Southern part of the Gloucester Basin, Yancoal’s Duralie Coal Mine has identified a marvelous way to protect endangered and native fauna through the use of Nest Boxes. Large areas within the Gloucester Valley have been cleared through logging, leading to a loss of native vegetation and damaging the biodiversity in the area. This has meant a lack of hollow-bearing habitat resources in trees for local fauna, as the majority of the vegetation is regrowth and too young to contain hollows for fauna to live in.

To fix this problem, as part of their biodiversity offset strategy, the team at Duralie developed an idea to build artificial nest boxes which provide a habitat for a range of endemic native birds, mammals and bats.

Running since 2012, the Nest Box Program has exceeded expectations, with a plan to expand the program to accommodate more species.

 

COMMUNITY EXCELLENCE

CMOC-Northparkes Mines Located 27 kilometres north-northwest of Parkes and employing over 300 people, Northparkes has proudly supported the White Ribbon Campaign since becoming the first mine and one of the first private businesses in Australia to become a White Ribbon accredited workplace in 2016, joining others organisations committed to preventing and responding to domestic and family violence.

As one of the Central West’s largest employers, Northparkes takes its role in breaking the cycle of family and domestic very seriously. Through the promotion of respectful relationships and gender equality in the workplace, Northparkes have created a culture of zero tolerance of family and domestic violence. They encourage their employees to stand up and speak out to challenge inappropriate behaviors.

 A number of their employees have volunteered their time to support programs and events within the Parkes and Forbes Shires that aim to raise awareness of family and domestic violence. These events include the White Ribbon Marches in Parkes and Forbes, the Love Bites Program, Boys Night In and the White Ribbon Rugby League Cup.

Idemitsu Australia Resources Idemitsu Australia Resources’ Boggabri Coal Mine, which employs 600 people, has worked closely with the traditional owners of the land, the Kamilaroi people, to provide an educational resource that can be used by all Australians to improve their cultural awareness and understanding of the Kamilaroi Nation.

Made in consultation with members of the Kamilaroi Nation, the 20-minute film portrays the Dreamtime stories and the cultural traditions of the Kamilaroi. The team at Boggabri Coal hosted screenings of the film to the public and has given a copy to all local schools to raise awareness of the area’s rich indigenous connection. 

This is a world-class example of a mining company investing in a project to highlight the significance of and cultural connection to ‘country’ by traditional owners. The standard that Boggabri Coal has achieved with its production ‘The Kamilaroi’ evoked genuine emotion and interest from members of the public, teachers and students alike.

 

Victorian solar industry in crisis, as August rebates run out within hour Clean Energy Council media release 1st August 2019 reports that:

Urgent changes are needed to the Victorian Solar Homes program or large numbers of small businesses in the state will go bust in the months ahead, the Clean Energy Council said today after the monthly allocation of rebates for August ran out within 106 minutes.

Darren Gladman, Clean Energy Council Director – Distributed Energy said the program is threatening the survival of small solar businesses and some are already looking at closing their doors. “Solar Homes has created a devastating boom-bust which is hitting many small solar businesses hard,” Mr Gladman said. “Because the majority of Victorians are able to access the program, people are holding off installing solar altogether until they can claim the rebates. It means the state’s solar industry is being turned on and off like a tap – and for the whole of August the tap was only on for a couple of hours.  

“Government programs should not be like trying to buy concert tickets, where access depends on whether you can get through in the few hours that it is open. The intention of the program was welcome, but the way it is being rolled out is turning into a worst-case scenario for the state’s solar industry. This is obviously the opposite of what was intended. Along with the industry’s woes, it appears that some consumers were unable to access the system this morning, aggravating those who were trying to take advantage of the program.

“The industry has put forward a range of options to improve Solar Homes, but the first step to fixing it, is recognition that there is a problem. We are calling on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to urgently intervene and lead a review to revisit the criteria for the program,” he said. Refer www.cleanergycouncil.org.au for more details.

“Clean power to provide 35% energy” Industrial Careers, 29th July 2019 article says:

Thirty-five per cent of Australia’s electricity needs will be met by clean sources within two years, analysts say. New data shows solar power is rapidly transforming the national energy market, with rooftop systems and new large-scale farms regularly pushing renewable energy beyond 30 per cent of total generation at midday during June.

Wind, hydro and solar power were responsible for up 22.3 per cent of electricity used in June. Clean energy generation peaked at 39.2 per cent in the middle of the day on 30 June.

“What we are seeing now is just a glimpse of what’s ahead because you’ve still got a substantial number of solar farms coming through,” said Tristan Edis, a Green Energy Markets director and analyst. We’re going to be regularly having 50 per cent of renewables – solar, wind and hydro – across the national electricity market in the middle of the day in the next 12 months. But it is also soon going to get hard to get new stuff built.”

Many recent large-scale clean power plants have been funded on a commercial basis by businesses looking for cheap power while wholesale electricity prices were high. But Mr Edis says that the lack of federal policy to drive grid transformation will see investment slow until the circumstances in the market changed – for example the closure of a coal-fired power plant.

“It just shows how crazy this idea is that we should go and build another coal-fired generator to run as baseload,” he said “If we do that it just means another coal-fired power plant is going to shut down because nothing can outcompete solar and wind.” Refer www.industrialcareers.com.au for more details.

“Solar waste investigated” Industrial Carerrs, 29th July 2019 says in its article:

Experts are investigating better ways to dispose of solar panels. There are no laws on solar industry waste, which experts predict could weigh a total of 1,500 kilotons by 2050.

Currently, at most waste sites, only the panels’ aluminium frames can be recycled, leaving large sheets of glass and back sheets embedded with cells going to landfill. The only facility in Australia that recycles solar panels is Reclaim PV in Adelaide. No official data on solar waste is being collected, so Professor Rodney Stewart from Griffith University has been trying for himself.

“It’s not a big waste stream at the moment. It’s a relatively small waste stream because most of the solar panels installed have only been installed in the past decade,” he told the ABC. “These panels last 15, 20, 25 years. So the problem is coming. “We have estimates that by 2050 we’ll have 1,500 kilotons of solar PV waste being disposed of.” He said one problem is that some elements of solar panel modules can be toxic.

“Some of those, if they’re in landfill, could leach into groundwater and get into water systems,” he said. “And these are sometimes rare earth materials or types of materials we want to re-use because the extraction of those minerals in mining is energy-intensive.”

The Federal Government is looking at new rules, including adding solar panels to the Product Stewardship Act, which mandates how electronic waste is dealt with. Professor Stewart said it may be hard to enforce any hard laws. “We need the industry to actually create some authorities to self-regulate and push their members to improve their rates of refurbishment or enabling recycling of components,” he said “And then those free-riders that aren’t doing that,

They want to just import cheap products that can’t be re-furbished or recycled, then they can’t play in the space in Australia.” Refer www.industrialcareers.com.au for further details.

 

 Clean energy executives planning for the future after two years of record growth Clean Energy Council, media release, dated Tuesday 30 July 2019 reports “Australia’s renewable energy sector has just had its two biggest years in history but the future of the industry remains messy and uncertain, as shown by a survey of senior executives released at the Australian Clean Energy Summit in Sydney today.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said $20 billion of private investment had flowed into large-scale renewable energy in 2018 and it was the biggest ever year for rooftop solar. But the large-scale Renewable Energy Target (RET) has now been achieved and there is no long term policy to give investors certainty beyond 2020.

“While the indicators in the latest Clean Energy Outlook Index are still strong, the level of confidence in the future of clean energy investment has fallen since December 2018. Close to two thirds (62 per cent) of the executives responding expected to increase staffing levels in the next 12 months, compared to 83 per cent in December,” Mr Thornton said. “The industry is navigating a range of challenges. The top concern for those surveyed was grid connection and network access, followed by a lack of federal policy and then unnecessary regulation.

“While the industry is working closely with the Australian Energy Market Operator and the energy networks to address the challenges with the grid, these are complex issues which take time, planning, major investment and political support. Consequently the average confidence level has declined slightly to 6.6 out of 10, down from 7.1 six months ago,” he said. Mr Thornton said while renewable energy investment no longer requires new subsidy, it does require long-term energy policy certainty.

“The momentum of this industry is incredible, but without some form of national policy leadership investment in new clean energy will be more challenging.. I’m looking forward to hearing perspectives about what the future holds from some of the most insightful people in the country and beyond,” he said.

The full results of the Clean Energy Outlook index are available on the Clean Energy Council website. Further details are available on www.cleanergycouncil.org.au site. 

AEMC wants users to sell power back to the grid to guarantee energy demand. Industrial Careers, 22nd July 2019 reports:

The Federal Government’s chief energy advisor says large commercial and industrial users should be able to easily reduce their demand in peak periods and sell it back into the grid, known as ‘demand reduction’. The suggestion is seen a sign of the rising pressure on power generation, especially with the looming closure of the Liddell coal-fired power station in the NSW Hunter Valley.

Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) chair John Pierce says energy demand must be guaranteed in the increasingly uncertain environment. “These are times in which those consumers have agreed not to consume electricity or consume less or later,” Mr Pierce said. “Taking demand pressure off the power system is a substitute for generation and helps tackle rising wholesale prices at peak times, reducing electricity costs for everyone.

“It makes sense to manage demand for electricity if we are going to deliver reliable energy at the least possible cost. “We want to make it more attractive and eventually open it up to be a truly two-sided market where generators and consumers face the same price signals and incentives to either supply or use electricity.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) say’s the proposal would make it more attractive for big energy users to reduce their demand. ACCC chairman Rod Sims said it would be a vital development.

The Australian Energy Council, a lobby for dozens of major electricity and downstream natural gas businesses, said it could be a good idea. “There is no doubt that this rule change and its new settlement arrangements, while an improvement on what was proposed by some parties, will still add complexity to what is an already complex wholesale market settlement arrangement,” it said.

Households and small customers would be excluded under the AEMC’s model, because of consumer protection concerns. However, the AEMC said letting small consumers access the market could be considered after a 12 month review.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said it would give power back to consumers. “Consumers that work together will have improved negotiating power and will get a better deal. That’s an important change,” Mr Taylor said.

Energy consumer advocates at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre say consumers should not be left out. Further details are available on www.industrialcareers.org.au

 

Contacts

Clr Peter Shinton (Chair) peter.shinton@warrumbungle.nsw.gov.au 0268492000 or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636, info@mininrelatedcouncils.asn.au.

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