MERC Newsletter – November 2019


Delegates, here is the November 2019 MERC Newsletter sent out on 7th December 2019.This newsletter has a lot of important information and interesting articles 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

The Guidelines for VPA’s and a VPA framework agreement (including scope and calculation methodologies) has now been agreed to by NSWMC & the MERC VPA Working Party. A foreword is being written for both Chairs/Executive Officers to sign off as part of the document. The DPIE to sign off on it next before circulation.


Resources for Regions (R4R) versus a Royalties for Regions.

In our pursuit of the R4R being chnaged to suit mining affected Councils, MERC working party has been very active, as previous newsletters have explained. The working party was hoping that another workshop would be held before Christmas, but this wont occur until January.

Suzanne Gillham, Director of the Resources for Regions Review Unit, DPIE, in an email this week said:

“I am writing to provide an update on the Resources for Regions strategic review. The department has composed a summary report with recommendations which have today been published on the department’s website here. As you will see in the summary report, the review makes a number of recommendations for changes to the program. It was informed by research undertaken by University of Technology Sydney’s Institute of Public Policy and Governance, input from key stakeholders such as MERC during consultations, and other research and analysis.

We are now composing new Program Guidelines for the program and will very much value your further feedback on these as they are developed. I will get in touch to arrange this early in the New Year. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the review or summary report, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Thank you for your input to date. We look forward to further discussing this program with you.”

The details in the Summary Report referred to above are very broad and the specific requirements have yet to be finalised and the MERC working party will be called upon to assist with the development of the critical detail that will be in the program, early in 2020.

Resources NSW have chosen MERC to be the primary consultation entity for Local Government on this and the working party has been involved in several meetings to develop the proposed changes to the Resources for Regions Program.


Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

The Executive Officer is hoping to have the Minister for Planning & Public Spaces at the next meeting in Sydney for MERC where the need for RAF will be stressed .There has been a response from the senior staff on whether RAF is to continue or not with the situation still being assessed.


Next Meetings of Association for 2020

The locations/dates for meetings in 2020 will be Sydney 4/5th March (Executive Committee meets at 2pm on 4th, Ordinary  Meeting at 9am on 5th March, in the Club York premises); at Blayney 7/8th May 2019; Orange in August (dates TBA) and Sydney in November (dates TBA).This fits in with Country Mayors and the member Council meeting cycles.


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.Several Councils have expressed interest in joining and are being pursued by the Executive Officer.


Speakers for next meetings of MERC

MERC is pursuing the following speakers for future meetings:

  • 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;
  • Hon Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture & Western NSW;
  • Other relevant Opposition party members and government senior officers will also be pursued for meetings as required depending on locality of the meetings.


Life Membership Updates – Mitchell & Connor

Life membership badge, plaque and certificate was presented to ex Cr Chris Connor at the November Annual General Meeting in Gloucester on 8th November 2019. Chris and Carolyn were in attendance Wednesday and Thursday evenings to catch up with delegates.

Col has advised he will liaise with the Executive Officer to attend a future meeting when able to in view of his ongoing medical treatments.


Coal Seam Gas Policy

The amended Coal Seam Gas Policy has now been improved with the addition of the double casing minmum and cementing of all bores from the well head (ground) to the production horizon (extraction zone at the bottom of the well) details and adopted at the November 8th meeting. A copy of the amended policy will be forwarded to delegates for their information and/or consideration in due course.


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., once all sponsors, funds and details are finalised.

In the meantime, Peter Dupen has managed to get the DPIE on side to put $20k into the project and is negotiating with NSW Minerals Councils for $40k to match what MERC has committed. With a $100k program enables the UTS to seek government funding he is actively canvassing other entities to be involved in the project as sponsors and is seeking other grant options. He and supervisors have been concentrating on 3 main tasks – progressing the design of the engagement process and evaluation framework; seeking agency support for the project and further funding for the project.

In the meantime, Peter Dupen, the PhD student has requested your support on the consultancy front, in view of his specific areas of expertise as follows:

“I would also like to introduce myself to your associated Councils, as my reasons for taking on this PhD project arise from my experience in assessing and policing mining impacts particularly on groundwater and surface water resources.  Prior to starting this project for example, I was the Mining Manager for WaterNSW – a position entirely focussed on examining impacts of mining and advocating for their reduction.

As agreed at the outset, I will receive no income from the PhD project funds.  To enable me to survive and prosper whilst undertaking it, I have started a new consultancy ( devoted to assisting Councils, agencies and communities to use advanced analytics and technologies to understand environmental impacts and make good decisions.  H2onestly’s point of difference from all other consultancies is that I don’t intend to work for industry at all, thereby assuring regulators and communities that I’m uncompromised in working for their interests.  I have a network of impact analysts, IT gurus, environmental specialists, policy advisors and many other skilled practitioners available to assist in whatever tasks arise, and I am well versed in project management and making things happen on-time and on-budget. 

It is in keeping with MERC’s list of consultants that have been circulated that MERC can have Peter’s resume distributed, which will be sent under separate cover. Meanwhile interested parties can contact him  ON 0438 729 164, or . His passion and ethics is to be commended, hopefully there is some interest out there for his services.


MERC November Executive Committee Election Results 8th November 2019

The election for positions on the Executive of MERC occurred on 8th November 2019 with the Chair Clr Peter Shinton being returned unopposed, Clr Lilliane Brady OAM, did not stand resulting in the election of Clr Sue Moore and Clr Owen Hasler as Deputy Chairs. From the five nominations, Clrs Phyllis Miller OAM, Melanie Dagg and Michael Banasik were elected to the Executive Committee, with Clrs Nolan and Duffy missing out. Returning Officer was Adrian Panucci, Mid Coast Council, assisted by life member Chris Connor.

Delegates acknowledged the contribution Clr Brady OAM had made to the Association over the many years of her involvement and wished her well in her future retirement from Local Government and thanked Clr Jim Nolan for his contribution as a member of the Executive and his continued input as a member of MERC.


Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

New Australian coal history, Denis Porter, CEO NSW Minerals Council (1998-2001) email 24/11/19

I am writing to let you know that my new book – Coal: the Australian Story – has recently been published, tracing the development of the coal industry in NSW and Queensland from the early days of the colony to the 1960s. Sub-titled From convict mining to the birth of a world leader, the book brings together many of the major events and stories about the industry, including its industrial conflicts, inquiries and major developments. The Australian coal industry has been the subject of a number of books, papers and university theses, but there has been no recent book to bring together the overall story of the development of the industry in the two major coal exporting states. I hope that this new book now does this in a way that the general reader as well as those acquainted with the industry will find informative.

The book was launched in October in Brisbane by Ian Macfarlane, CEO of the Queensland Resources Council, and in Sydney by Tony Haraldson, CEO of Coal & Allied Industries Ltd from 1989 to 1993.

Coal: the Australian Story is a story not only of turmoil, but also of perseverance, major reforms and restructuring, and a story which involves an industry which has been of fundamental importance to the Australian economy for most of the industry’s life. The book’s final chapter deals with the 1960s, the period when the industry was beginning its fundamental re-orientation to the export market, with major new contracts from the Japanese steel mills and the massive new mine developments in the Bowen Basin in Queensland. That decade was arguably the period when the industry began on its path to becoming a world leading industry, a path however which was to prove rocky and strewn with obstacles in the form of competition from other exporters and low prices. I am also working on a second volume which covers the period from the 1970s to the present and hope that it will be published in 2020. My book has been published by Connor Court Publishing –


Rare Earths Deal Signed, 3/12/19 Industrial Careers article:

Australia’s rare earths industry has welcomed a new deal with the US. Australia and the United States have signed an agreement focusing on critical minerals. The deal could boost the rare earths industry in Australia, according to some mineral experts.

The global rare earths supply came to the attention of many after Beijing threatened to restrict the rare earth trade amid its ongoing trade war with the US. In an extremely remote part of Australia, Nolans Bore, a rare earths project north of Alice Springs, has welcomed the new deal.

The company behind the project, Arafura Resources, says that after 15 years, pending native title approval and finance, it will start construction late next year. While full details of the deal are not yet available, Brian Fowler, general manager for the Northern Territory with Arafura, says politicians appear to be realising how geopolitically threatened rare earths are, due to China’s market dominance.

“[China] controls 85 per cent of the world’s supply of rare earths,” Mr Fowler has told reporters. “We have the potential to supply somewhere in the region of 8 to 10 per cent of the world’s requirement for neodymium and praseodymium, two of the rare earths minerals. Their role is in the production of the highest strength magnets on the planet, they are the absolute essential elements in the electrification of motor vehicles and in the production of clean energy using things like wind turbines.”

With more car companies making more electric models, neodymium and praseodymium supplies will have to increase in the future. Processing research director for CSIRO’s mineral resources, Chris Vernon, said the new deal could be just what is needed.

“[The deal] looks very promising,” he said. “One of the bottlenecks to getting a project off the ground in Australia was the financing and the uncertainty [so] if government is stepping in and providing some surety about getting finance, that can only be a good thing.

“The rare earths market is about to explode, simply because we expect to put so many electric vehicles on the road; every one of those requires rare earths for their magnets

“There’s also a burgeoning market in other technology uses. “A car only takes a few tens of kilograms of rare earths but when you’re looking at some high-tech military equipment for example, you could be looking at hundreds of kilograms of rare earths.

“There is a real hunger for more rare earths.”


CEFC Boost for Batteries, 4th Nov 2019   Industrial Careers article says:

The Federal Government has been praised for “mimicking” its opposition’s energy plan. The Morrison government has promised $1 billion for electricity generation, storage and transmission – very much in line with a Labor policy pledge from the last election.

The announcement should see more money handed to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). It is a big change the Coalition, which tried to scrap the investment agency under former prime minister Tony Abbott.

Investor groups like the new investment plan but want a better long-term plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Policy director at the Investor Group on Climate Change, Erwin Jackson, says it is a good idea regardless of which side of politics put it forward.

“In the face of the current uncertainty facing the electricity system, having the CEFC invest more can add to investor confidence,” Mr Jackson said.

“The government has taken an important step but we still need to get government, business and the community together to discuss how we’re going to transition the economy.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor says the CEFC will “unlock” private sector investment for projects. The CEFC has the authority to invest $10 billion in projects, excluding coal. It will now manage a new $1 billion “grid reliability fund”.

Eligible investments mostly consist of energy storage projects like pumped hydro and batteries, transmission lines and projects to stabilise the electricity grid.


CSIRO Looks to Hydro Boost, 2/12/19, Industrial Careers article:

CSIRO has outlined five key opportunities for hydrogen industry growth. The science agency says it has identified the critical research steps Australia must follow to realise a potential 7,600 jobs and $11 billion per year by 2050 from the burgeoning hydrogen industry.

Its new report finds investing in research can solve industry challenges to create five key national opportunities: hydrogen imports, and integration of hydrogen into gas networks, transport, electricity systems, and industrial processes.

Steps to translate Australia’s strong hydrogen research capability into a key pillar of the nation’s energy and export profile are laid out in Hydrogen Research Development & Demonstration (RD&D): Priorities and Opportunities for Australia. Australia’s current hydrogen research footprint includes 23 institutions actively exploring hydrogen, in various technology and research areas across the value chain, as well as another 23 hydrogen-specific demonstration projects and research facilities around Australia.

CSIRO Research Director Dr Patrick Hartley said that CSIRO is on a mission to bring together industry, government, and other research organisations to fast-track emerging hydrogen technologies.

“This isn’t limited to the domestic industry development – we’ll link Australian expertise with international projects. The overall focus will be on enabling Australia’s domestic and export hydrogen industries,” Dr Hartley said.

“Importantly, solving the challenges identified can have a multiplier effect that boosts demand for hydrogen – particularly in large scale industrial settings – and encourages further hydrogen supply cost reductions through improvements in efficiency and economies of scale.”


WMO Confirms Scorching Climate, 4/12/19, Industrial Careers article:

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says 2019 ends a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by human activities. Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods are almost certain to be the highest on record. 2019 is on course to be the second or third warmest year on record, according to the WMO.

The WMO provisional statement on the State of the Global Climate says that the global average temperature in 2019 (January to October) was about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019. CO2 lasts in the atmosphere for centuries and the ocean for even longer, thus locking in climate change. Sea level rise has accelerated since the start of satellite measurements in 1993 because of the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, according to the report.

The ocean, which acts as a buffer by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide, is paying a heavy price. Ocean heat is at record levels and there have been widespread marine heatwaves. Sea water is 26 percent more acidic than at the start of the industrial era. Vital marine ecosystems are being degraded.

The daily Arctic sea-ice extent minimum in September 2019 was the second lowest in the satellite record and October has seen further record low extents. In Antarctica, 2019 saw record low ice extents in some months.

“If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3°C by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human wellbeing,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“We are nowhere near on track to meet the Paris Agreement target. On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and “abnormal” weather. And, once again in 2019, weather and climate related risks hit hard. Heatwaves and floods which used to be ‘once in a century’ events are becoming more regular occurrences. Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia,” said Mr Taalas.

“One of the main impacts of climate change is more erratic rainfall patterns. This poses a threat to crop yields and, combined with population increase, will mean considerable food security challenges for vulnerable countries in the future,” he said.

The report devotes an extensive section to weather and climate impacts on human health, food security, migration, ecosystems and marine life. This is based on input from a wide variety of United Nations partners.

Extreme heat conditions are taking an increasing toll on human health and health systems with greater impacts where there are aging populations, urbanization, urban heat island effects, and health inequities. 

In 2018, a record 220 million more heatwave exposures by vulnerable persons over the age of 65 occurred, compared with the average for the baseline of 1986-2005.

Climate variability and extreme weather events are among the key drivers of the recent rise in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe crises.

After a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again – over 820 million people suffered from hunger in 2018.  Among 33 countries affected by food crises in 2018, climate variability and weather extremes a compounding driver together with economic shocks and conflict in 26 countries and the leading driver in 12 of the 26.

More than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019, 7 million being triggered by hazard events such as Cyclone Idai in southeast Africa, Cyclone Fani in south Asia, Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean, flooding in Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia, generating acute humanitarian and protection needs.

The final Statement on the State of the Climate with complete 2019 data will be published in March 2020.



The comments and details in the articles in this newsletter do not reflect the views, policies or position of the Association or its member Councils and are sourced and reproduced from public media outlets by the Executive Officer to provide information for members that they may not already be exposed to in their Local Government areas



Clr Peter Shinton (Chair) 0268492000 or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,

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