MERC Newsletter – Nov 2018

Introduction

Delegates, here is the November 2018 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.

Wind Farming & Energy Workshop 8th November 2018 held in Crookwell

The Wind Farming workshop was held on Thursday 8th November 2018 in Crookwell, commencing at 1.00pm to 4.35pm, with a variety of speakers from Councils, Government etc invited to speak about how Councils can better manage wind energy developments more effectively with some excellent examples. It was well received by all in attendance.

Those speakers that provided presentations by email have been distributed to delegates and Clr Hasler’s workshop notes on the workshop have also been circulated. The speakers have been thanked for their time and effort to enlighten delegates on wind farming developments.

DPE has been contacted about the DPE Executive not attending & it is being investigated.

Update on the Joint Voluntary Planning Agreement Working Party (VPAWP)

The working party (Cr Sue Moore, Cr Owen Hasler, Steve Loane and Greg Lamont) met on 22nd August 2018 in Sydney with the DPE (Alison Frame, Felicity Greenway and Steven Barry and the NSW Minerals Council (Steve Galliee and Claire Doherty) for an hour to discuss areas of agreement and the way forward. The meeting was very constructive.

The aim of the steering committee is to go over the areas not in agreement and determine a path forward to get agreement, so the Guidelines can be finalised and adopted by delegates at our Annual General Meeting in November 2018. NSW Minerals Council are also keen to have these Guidelines finalised as soon as possible but needed agreement of the issues confirmed (DA Schematic, Roads Calculator and need for a dispute resolution provision determined up front) to take back to their Executive on 20th September 2018 to justify their investment in the project and any further involvement.

Current position is that the DPE have confirmed that Stephen Free will chair the Steering Committee and it is hoped a meeting will be held before the end of the year (depending on Chair) to establish protocols, etc. However it looks like first meeting to be held in Sydney on 15th February 2019 to fit in with the Executive Chair of the NSW Minerals Council’s attendance who were not available until after Xmas. The Chair was not available in January!

Regional Independent Assessment Panel (RIAP) & Resources for Regions (R4R)

The last meeting for RIAP was held on 6th September 2018 where 35 projects have been received for consideration with $190m value of projects for shortlisting, to allocate $50m against the new criteria. A shortlist has been agreed on and awaiting clarification of some projects by Infrastructure NSW before RIAP is called for a meeting again for the adoption of a final list of approved projects to be considered by Cabinet later in the year.

Those that were good mining related projects but not shortlisted for not meeting the criteria despite the changes to the criteria, are going to be directed towards other funding programs if eligible and there were other projects that were simply not eligible and missed out altogether.The next meeting to be held in Sydney on 24th January 2019.

Website

There is a new part on website where only delegates can access minutes by a “log in” which has now been set up by CIBIS and those that responded have been registered and have been informed on the process by the CIBIS representative Erin. If others are still to register let the Executive Officer know who and the email address and you will get registered by Erin.

Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

The last meeting of RAF was held on 18th October 2018, Clr Hasler provided a comprehensive update to our November meetings, with a copy of his report in the business papers. With the election in 2019, it is not likely that a further meeting will be held until after the elcetions as Clr Hasler has reported.

Next Meetings of Association for 2019

The next Executive Committee meeting will be on 7th February 2019 at Club York, 99 York St up from The Grace and the Ordinary General Meeting next day on 8th February 2019 in NSW Parliament House in Jubilee Room, awaiting confirmation, otherwise, given Parliament not sitting we could use Club York, the rates are reasonable.

The May meeting is to be held in Forbes who are working on dates, in the NSW Parliament in August (dates to be confirmed) and awaiting a response from Mid Coast Council who are also working on dates regarding November for 2019 meetings.

Dates will be confirmed by the Executive in due course, but by sticking with the pattern of second Thursday/Friday in the aforementioned months and bookings at Parliament House is what we are working in for your diaries.

Membership Campaign

Queanbeyan – Palerang, Yass Valley and Upper Lachlan Shire Councils attended the wind farming workshop in view of their wind farming developments. They were all going back to report to their Councils on the merits of joining MERC and it is hoped they do. Still awaiting Balranald and Narrandera Shire Councils and some of the invited workshop wind farming Councils, to respond.

The Executive Officer has approached Country Mayors Association to present to them in March and has still to send the current proposal pro forma to delegates to review and provide input and suggestions to the Executive Officer on the content, to entice further interest. Membership discussions have commenced with Mayor of Muswellbrook and Upper Lachlan Shire Council is to consider membership at the Council meeting on 20th December 2018..

The Association at its May meeting 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.

Research Fellowship Update

Dr Juan Castilla – Pho provided a presentation to the Executive Committee meeting and the workshop on 8th November 2018 and again in full to the delegates at the Ordinary meeting on 9th November 2018 on how the University of Wollongong can work with MERC on a PhD research fellowship using their Participatory Collaborative Consultation Simulation and Modelling approach.

Delegates were extremely impressed and can see its application in all forms of consultation with the community and have resolved that the Executive Committee pursue this concept in consultation with the University, to look at ways to fund and implement it with a view to have the PhD Fellowship in place by the September 2019 intake of PhD students.

Executive Officer has been in touch with Juan who requested the presentations from the wind farming workshop to better understand the consultation needs of delegates and their communities for the project. There are some issues to consider and Juan has indicated that he has already identified a prospective PhD student and that the project could start in March 2019 for their side, however the working party has not been launched as yet and funding options etc., considered. Juan has been requested to provide further details on funding options and how the process may work for both sides before convening the working party. More later.

Project Working Party

The working party is currently reviewing the MERC CSG Policy in relation to the NSW Gas Plan; they have reviewed and shortlisted the existing panel of consultants; prepared a Skills Matrix in member Councils for renewable energy, mining and other specialised skill sets that could be accessed by members to assist with resource sharing, etc. They will be presented to delegates at the February 8 2019 meeting..

Parliamentary Inquiry into Impacts of Mining on Regional Businesses 

Chair Barnaby Joyce presented the findings of the Inquiry to House of Representatives 3rd December and as MERC presented and made a submission the following has been received: “Thank you for making a submission to the Inquiry into how mining companies can support businesses in regional economies. The Inquiry has now concluded and the report was tabled in the House of Representatives today, 3 December 2018.

The report is available on the Committee’s website: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Industry_Innovation_Science_and_Resources/MiningSector/Report

The Committee’s media release is also attached for your information.


03 Dec 2018 3:40 PM AEST – A fairer share for mining towns

The Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources Committee today tabled the report for its mining inquiry, entitled Keep it in the regions: Mining and resources industry support for businesses in regional economies.

A key issue during the inquiry was the terms of payment offered by mining companies to their suppliers and contractors in regional areas.  The Committee is pleased to be able to announce that, since the inquiry was launched, resource companies Anglo American and Peabody have decided to offer payment terms of 30 days or better to all Australian small and medium sized enterprises.

In addition, Australia’s biggest mining company, BHP submitted that it has now changed its payment terms policy to provide terms of 30 days or better to all locally-based supplier businesses – regardless of size. ‘This change will benefit up to 700 local businesses around Australia,’ said Committee Chair, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP.

‘Mining companies have essentially been using regional businesses as a bank,’ Mr Joyce said, ‘It’s time for this practice to stop. Our Nation has an obligation to make sure that in the region where the wealth is extracted, the greatest benefit goes back to the people who live in the same area’.

Deputy Chair, Mr Luke Gosling OAM MP, agreed, saying, ‘The Committee calls on all mining companies operating in Australia to provide fair payment terms to regional businesses.’ ‘If the industry does not act, the Committee is recommending the Government revisit legislating maximum payment terms,’ Mr Gosling added. 

The Committee’s report also makes recommendations aimed at increasing local procurement by mining and resources companies, addressing gaps in regional areas around skills, training and apprenticeships, and building innovation through the mining equipment, technology and services (METS)  sector.

Other key issues for the inquiry were the impacts of FIFO work practices and the mining industry’s interactions with landholders. ‘If you look back at the history, mining companies used to build whole towns – Murrumba and Dysart for example. Now they prefer to fly their workers in and out and do the bare minimum for the nearby towns. Benefits from mining should be long term, not boom and bust,’ said Mr Joyce.

‘One thing we do know is that communities thrive when their workers and families live in the area and can contribute to the local economy.

The Committee made some recommendations around this issue, but we think industry bodies like the Minerals Council of Australia also have a role to play in making sure their members do the right thing,’ Mr Joyce added. 

A further media release will be distributed to delegates under separate cover as information.

Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues in the Press

Mining companies forced to pay towards rehabilitating abandoned mines”. 10th November 2018. Laura Gartry and Ashleigh Stevenson report that – Queensland resource companies will be required to financially contribute to rehabilitate abandoned mines in Queensland, under new legislation passed in State Parliament.

Instead of a site-by-site approach, companies will be forced to contribute an amount into a pool of money to rehabilitate future abandoned sites if the owner goes bust. Therefore if a new mine fails, the funds will be used to cover the cost to rehabilitate the site, removing liability from taxpayers. Future high-risk projects have to give a surety to the Government to cover their rehabilitation costs. The interest from the billion-dollar fund will be used to make a modest contribution to the overall cost of rehabilitating existing abandoned mines, and towards some research and development.

It is understood will take up to a decade for the interest to accumulate before it can be used for existing mines. The bill for current site rehabilitation in Queensland is estimated to run into the billions of dollars, with the state responsible for maintaining about 120 abandoned or legacy mines.

The laws would require new mines to pay for areas such as voids and waste ponds to be rehabilitated, but existing mines won’t face the same requirements. All mining companies will now require progressive closure and rehabilitation plans for all projects.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad described the new laws as “ground-breaking”. “These reforms strike the right balance for the environment and the resource sector, while ensuring resource companies, not Queensland taxpayers, foot the bill for the rehabilitation of failed mines or stranded assets,” Ms Trad said. “The reforms ensure that mine rehabilitation actually happens in Queensland and we don’t leave a legacy of abandoned mines for future generations, or mines that are in care and maintenance for many decades. Ms Trad said the Government would not amend approvals given to companies under previous policy frameworks. This includes existing mines with “non-use management areas”, which can include pit voids and waste rock which are not required to be rehabilitated. But in the future, non-use management areas will only be approved in very restricted circumstances, where it is found to be in the public interest, as per an independent evaluation.

Lock The Gate campaigner Rick Humphries said as a result, communities will be left with “vast unfilled coal pits and polluted water after mining”. “The mining industry already plans to leave 218 coal pits un-rehabilitated, many of which will drain groundwater permanently and will leave vast, deep scars on the landscape,” he said. “We pushed the Government hard to phase in similar laws that have been in place in the US since the 1970s requiring all pits to be backfilled.”

Head of Queensland Resources Council (QRC) Ian Macfarlane said the industry took comfort in the fact the legislation was not going to be retrospective. “Those mines operating under the current environmental approvals wouldn’t have retrospective conditions apply to them,” he said.

Daily crisis talks between the QRC and the Government over some proposed amendments were facilitated by former Labor minister Stephen Robertson last week. “It was just a case of making sure that the words of the legislation reflected that [no retrospective conditions] … and getting that outcome,” Mr Macfarlane said. Lock the Gate has accused the Government of being “strong armed” by the mining lobby, but the Government maintains the laws were never going to be retrospective. Mr Macfarlane said each company’s contributions to the fund would be made public.

“The amount that a company pays is calculated based on their credit risk and what their credit ratings are, and the size of the rehabilitation bill,” Mr Macfarlane said.

Greens MP Michael Berkman said the laws should have applied retrospectively. “What the Government’s proposed will let every single existing mine in Queensland off the hook effectively,” Mr Berkman said. “Not requiring any of the more than 200 final voids across the state to be dealt with by industry.”Industry estimates it is about $20 billion worth of work, which means Queenslanders are going to be left to foot the bill for all that work & industry will be let off the hook.”

A government planning failureThe Land, 15th November reported that NSW Farmers representative Mitchell Clapham didn’t mince words at the Independent Planning Commission hearing into KEPCO’s proposed coal mine in the Bylong Valley last week. Association conservation resource management committee member Mr Clapham’s frustration was palpable. “The overarching reason we are here today is the complete and abject failure of government planning processes when it comes to extractive industries’ development of state significant projects,” Mr Clapham said. “The fact that this room is packed with both sides at loggerheads is a clear example of the continued failure of these processes. “It is inexcusable to think that it should ever have come to this.”

Mr Clapham said agriculture was not a priority for government when it came to major mining proposals. “We feel it is worth taking the opportunity to point out a number of severe deficiencies with government policies and indeed, quite shocking examples of the abuse of government power in order to achieve a favourable outcome for resource development.” He said there was a real lack of regulatory teeth when it came to aquifer interference. In 2008, in an attempt to recognise and safeguard the contribution of agriculture to NSW, the rural lands State Environmental Planning Policy had been introduced, said Mr Clapham. He said this legislation provided solutions if there existed political will to protect agricultural land, as it included the notion of “state significant agricultural land”. He said to date no land has been declared under the SEPP as having state significance.

“One would argue however, the intention to protect these lands was always there, but has been greatly overshadowed by the pursuit of mineral resources that lie under these lands at any and all costs.” Mr Clapham said NSW Farmers wasn’t anti-mining, but was increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with government policy that fails to recognise and protect the importance of key agricultural land. He said water issues, dust and noise impacts, visual impacts and significant impacts to property values were among the issues facing the range of vibrant agricultural industries in the Bylong Valley.

“Agriculture is a sustainable industry that will be here forever, it is not a once-only, boom then bust with a footprint that survives a millennia. It’s time the government got real about protecting agriculture.”

Bylong Valley beef producer, John Weaver of the family owned Timnath Pty Ltd, Budden, says alluvium water availability is in jeopardy if the proposed KEPCO coal mine is approved. His manager of “Budden” at the foot of the range on the Rylstone end of the valley for 25 years, Rick Cook, has experienced firsthand how ground water in the Growee River behaves. Mr Weaver said when water was pumped from underground at “Budden”, the neighbours across the road at “Wigelmar” cannot pump water and vice versa.

“In Rick’s experience the Growee River aquifer is highly reactive to any changes in the volume of water in the alluvium,” Mr Weaver said. ”We are very concerned if the Bylong Coal Project is approved and the mine pumps water from the alluvium around Bylong it will be like pulling the plug in a bath. The Growee River aquifer will be drained, leaving us with no water for our breeding herd and no way of supplying water before they start to die in as little as two days.”

The Budden breeding herd of 350 commercial Angus has been developed for more than 40 years by selective breeding and Mr Weaver said, cannot be replaced by money. “If we start to lose our water, we don’t want compensation,” Mr Weaver said. “We want KEPCO to guarantee our water and guarantee that if we lose our water or its availability starts to decline, then KEPCO must replace it within 48 hours of the loss or reduction being identified. “If not, the Bylong Coal Project must not be approved.” Full story is on this link: https://www.theland.com.au/story/5754804/a-govt-planning-failure/?src=rss

Questions about whether much has changed after inquiries into mining processes” Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald November 20, 2018 writes: REBECCA Connor’s allegations against named Department of Planning employees dealing with NSW mining applications are serious and disturbing, particularly in a state and a region that experienced years of tumultuous mining-related corruption inquiries and their consequences. Her allegations are outlined in emails in late 2017 and early 2018 to more senior staff, in a brief reference that forms part of a March investigation report into allegations against her, and in her responses to those allegations.

She was sacked for misconduct, although four of the five initial allegations against her were not sustained, and a further two – including that she failed to report a male friend’s emailed naked photo – were added to the allegations after her department computer was searched following her suspension.

On the face of it Ms Connor was sacked for matters considerably less serious than the allegations she had raised against others. The Department of Planning’s speedy resolution of her unfair dismissal case with a settlement that allowed Ms Connor to resign and receive a financial payout headed off a court hearing that at the very least would have aired her allegations in public. This quite probably would have included the naming of department staff.

An email between department governance managers after Ms Connor reported arrangements for a staff farewell – including invitations to mining industry representatives and requests for them to send money to a department employee’s personal credit card – provides strong proof of what department critics have been saying for too long about NSW Government “regulatory capture” over mining.

A manager confirms the credit card issue “is indicative of the conflict of interest and personal relationships that continue to exist between current employees… and the mining industry, especially mining agents, and the lack of understanding of the actual and perceived conflicts”.

In 2013 the Independent Commission Against Corruption concluded the “policy and regulatory environment in NSW for the release and allocation of coal exploration licenses is conducive to corruption”, with “weak processes” and a lack of transparency. Five years later it’s not unreasonable to ask if much has changed”.

“Mining in Dubbo – in the box seat”  from the Australian Mining Review, Elizabeth Fabri writes in the November edition: ‘Dubbo businesses already supply goods and services to a umber of mining operations around the region and the promise of new mines is set to increase opportunities. Dubbo mayor Ben Shields said mining was agrowth industry in western NSW with businesses expanding and taking advantage of the city’s strategic location and junction for rail, road and air freight services. 

He said ‘”From heavy vehicle supplies and services, to civil construction consultancies and mining engineering specialist services to logistics and transport, Dubbo is integrally linked in the mining supply chain”

Mining projects that were to benefit Dubbo were Alkane Resources rare earths mine at Toongi, the underground expansion of the Tomingley gold mine and the Clean TeQ’s Sunrise cobalt and nickel mine project near Fifield. Also the Dubbo community are set to benfit from a pending decsion to declare Dubbo a “fossicking district” for the samll scale search for mineral and gemstones in land holder approved areas. Historically, gold, common opal, agate, chalcedony and fossils have been found in the Dubbo area. Further details are in the A3 size one page article www.australianminingreview.com.au

“Independent Planning Commission (IPC) Public Meeting Vickery Extension Project”  Cr Mark Hall, Lachlan Shire Council, has suggested if any delegates are in the vicinity of Gunnedah on 18th December 2018 at 9am to attend the IPC public hearing on the proposed Coal Mine extension. Address is the Smithurst Theatre, Conadilly Street, Gunnedah, next to the Town Hall. .Expressions of Interest to speak must be in by 13th December 2018 by email to ipcn@ipcn.nsw.gov.au.

Contact

If you have any queries in relation to this newsletter please do not hesitate to contact the Chair or the Executive Officer to see how we can assist you in your busy role as a Council delegate to the Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils.

Our contacts are:- Chair, Clr Peter Shinton, by email peter.shinton@warrumbungle.nsw.gov.au or phone at Council on 02 68492000 or the Executive Officer, Greg Lamont, by email greg@yourexecutiveservice.com.au or info@miningrelatedCouncils.asn.au or phone on 0407937636.

 

Greg Lamont                                                                Clr Peter Shinton

Executive Officer                                                       Chair

 

 

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