MERC Newsletter – June 2019

Introduction

Delegates, here is the June 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 to be held on 23rd August 2019 in Sydney. Both parties agreed that the future of the Committee should be considered if no substantive progress was made at the next meeting.

On 10th May 2019 MERC members agreed that they would support such a mixed contributions model approach consisting of any of the following:

  • A model utilizing a % of Capital Expenditure and/or a cents per Cents per Production cost;
  • A combination of % Capital Expenditure and/or Cents per Production cost of 70% and a Worker Domicile Model of 30%;
  • A worker Domicile Model based upon a sliding scale which recognises the economic befit for the host Council;
  • Each Council has the opportunity to negotiate their own VPA models irrespective of the aforementioned models.

MERC has submitted a paper on the VPA framework agreement including the scope and methodologies for these mixed contributions models and options if use your own models, as agreed to by the MERC VPA working party. Despite this, it was further agreed that if these methodologies are not agreed to or substantive progress can’t be made during the negotiations, then the Chair of the VPA Steering Committee is to be advised that negotiations will cease and MERC will withdraw from the Committee. Feedback from NSWMC is that they don’t think MERC’s paper is a barrier at this stage and there is no indication as yet they will or MERC will withdraw. Early days!

Meanwhile, Glenn Wilcox (Life Member, Warren Shire Council) has provided his “Mining Calculator” to the VPA working party to trial as another option and comments will be provided to delegates about this model in due course. Gunnedah, Lachlan & Singleton are trialing it.

 

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.

The Executive Officer recently had preliminary discussions with Hon Kevin Anderson, Minister for Better Regulation and MP for Tamworth on the need for the Resources for Regions model to be revamped. He said he had received representations from Gunnedah Shire Council, in his electorate and was keen to pursue changing this. A further meeting with he and the Executive Officer will be held soon on this issue, update him on the VPA and PhD projects .

Invitations have been sent to the Minister for Regional Development (Barilaro), Minister for Planning (Stokes) and Minister for Western Region (Marshall) to attend future meetings in 2019 to talk about the need for changes to the Resources for Regions model and to meet with delegates.The NSW Opposition has only recently sorted their portoflios out and the relevant Shadows will be pursued in due course.

NSWMC are keen to be involved with discussions with Ministers on changing the Resources for Regions model and will be undertaking their own lobbying and are happy to work with MERC on this as well.

 

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.

 

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.

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 stregthen 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.

Unfortunately, delegates would be aware that Wentworth Shire Council has not attended very many meetings and has recently appointed a new General Manager and following a review of their various memberships and the establishment of the Far South West Joint Organisation Council has recently withdrawn from the Association citing the circumstances of mining in their LGA had changed.

The Executive Officer is still pursuing Coonamble Shire Council and had further discussions with the Mayor this week, now that they have engaged a new General Manager, have withdrawn from Orana Joint Organisation of Councils, it was agreed a submission be now forwarded to the Council  General Manager to take to Council. This will include an invitation to 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, DPE (PIE), Acting Executive Director of the Integrity & Ethics Unit to address delegates on the 19 recommendations of the Kaldas Review Report, which the DPE (PIE) have adopted all of them and progress with them;
  • Tony Corbett, Port of Newcastle, Trade & Business Development Manager, for an update on mineral movements out of the Port of Newcastle recent changes;
  • David Kittoes, Executive Director, Resource Assessments and Business System, DPIE on his role and on any changes proposed with planning assessments;
  • Dr Alex King or Kristina Erzikov & 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 when congratulating them on their re election and ministerial appointments:

  • 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

Other relevant Opposition party members and government senior officers will also be pursued for meetings as required when known formally as they were only announced 3rd July 2019.

 

Life Membership Updates – Mitchell, Connor and Cr Brady OAM

Life membership badges, plaques and certificates will be presented to Cr Lilliane Brady OAM and Col Mitchell at the August Ordinary meeting in Sydney with Chris Connor opting for Gloucester in November 2019. Both Col & Lilliane have confirmed their attendances.

 

Coal Seam Gas Policy

The amended Coal Seam Gas Policy was adopted with some minor changes. However, a Notice of Motion will be 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 will submit 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. Still awaiting the NOM details from Cr Hall.

 

Research Fellowship Update

Delegates decided to go with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), (Dr Alexey Voinov and Dr Juan Castilla-Rho) with Peter Dupen as the PhD student to undertake the PhD Research project on participatory modelling of social licensing pathways in view of it being “shovel ready”. This still leaves MERC with the option of undertaking a similar project with the University of Wollongong (UoW) SMART unit on a different topic in due course.

In further recent discussions with the PhD student, arrangements are being made to formalise the grant application and the development of 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.

The MERC working party will be involved in this and on how the project will work to benefit MERC members in due course. 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 who at this stage seem interested in sponsorship. T

he Director Policy, NSWMC has informed the Executive Officer that NSWMC are keen to work with MERC irrespective of the VPA negotiations on this project and the Resources for Regions changes. 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 guest.

 

Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

Santos Gas plan has hurdles to clear: Stokes” Peter Hannam, Environment editor says the minister in charge of assessing the $3 billion caol seam gas project pro;osed by Santos for the NSW north west says the process is ingoing, downplaying speculation that the approval is imminent. Rob Stokes the Planning & Public Spaces Minister told the Herald the Berejiklian governmnet had made no decision on its assessment of the controversila Narrabri Gas Project, contrary to media reports it was “on track to be approved” by the years end.

“In NSW we make no apology for having robust and thorough processes for major projects which have significant implications for the state, its people and its resources” Mt Stokes said.

The plan to drill 850 CSG wells many of them within the Pilliga state forest, is being considered by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Deputy Premier and Resources Minister John Barilaro said “there was no deadline for detrmining the application”, adding the Independent Planning Commission would need to sign off on it. For further details refer to www.smh.com.au.

Mine hits paydirt after 16 year wait”  Edward Boyd, Daily Telegraph, 22nd June 2019 writes

A proposed coal mine on the NSW Central Coast has been approved by the NSW government after a 16 year application process.

The Wallarah 2 coal project at Wyong has been granted a mining lease and will be able to extract up to 5m tonnes of export quality thermal coal each year. The proposed underground mine will support more than 1000 direct and indirect jobs during construction, 300 direct jobs in the mining operation for the 28 years of the mine, and another 500 indirect jobs in the building, transport and other associated sectors.

The joint venture mine is managed by Wyong Coal Prt Ltd which is 82.25% owned by Korean mining company Kores. The mine is predicted to generate more than $600 million in economic turnover in the Central Coast economy over it’s lifespan.

NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee welcomed the decision: “This is a very positive sign that the recently elected NSW government is serious about backing regional jobs and investment. “

Coal plans aims for aboriginal advance1st July 2019, Industrial Careers writes:

A bid has been launched to build a $2 billion Indigenous-led coal-fired power station in Collinsville in North Queensland. Brisbane-based Indigenous company Shine Energy says its planned project could create about 2,000 jobs during its construction phase and 600 once operations begin, with a focus on Indigenous employment.

Local are expected to welcome the notion, with Collinsville’s population having declined by 50 per cent over ten years, leaving the town struggling to survive. Shine Energy Australia said if gets approval, the Collinsville project would be Australia’s first high efficient low emission ultra-super critical coal-fired power. The company is also looking at building a solar PV farm to use for auxiliary power.

Queensland’s Labor Government has a 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 commitment, and Australian Conservation Foundation spokesperson Gavan McFadzean says the Collinsville project is unnecessary. “We shouldn’t be pitching our economic prosperity and jobs to the industries of the past, they should be to the future,” Mr McFazdean said.

“This project just does not pass the test when it comes to clean energy. Collinsville has some of the best solar radiation capacity anywhere on the planet so that’s where we think the future of Queensland’s energy needs are and that’s where the Queensland Government thinks it’s future is.”

Shine Energy CEO Ashley Dodd said investors are being courted. “We’ve had discussions with Credit Swisse anywhere between the $2 billion mark there is a lot of interest out there in the equity and debt market,” Mr Dodd said. “There is plenty of interest outside Australia but it would be great to have the national banks of Australia actually step up and commit to their reconciliation action plan.” Refer www.industrialcareers.com.au

Floating nuclear plant sets sail”  Industrial Careers, 1st July also reports;

A floating Russian nuclear power plant will soon take to the seas. The power plant called the Akademik Lomonosov has been in construction for almost two decades, but will next month be towed via the Northern Sea Route to its final destination in the Far East.

The 144-metre long platform painted in the colours of the Russian flag will float next to a small Arctic port town of Pevek, nearly 6,500km from Moscow. It will be used to supply electricity to settlements and industries in the area, which are mostly involved in extracting hydrocarbons and precious stones.

The Admiral Lomonosov will be the northernmost operating nuclear plant in the world. Just two million Russians reside near the Arctic coast in villages and towns similar to Pevek, but their work generates as much as 20 per cent of country’s GDP.

Proponents say floating nuclear power plants can supply massive amounts of energy to remote areas without long-term commitments, but the concept of a nuclear reactor stationed in the Arctic Sea has drawn criticism from environmentalists.

Greenpeace has dubbed the Lomonosov platform “Chernobyl on Ice”. Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy company, has pushed back against this nickname, saying the criticism is ill founded.

“It’s totally not justified to compare these two projects. These are baseless claims, just the way the reactors themselves operate work is different,” said Vladimir Iriminku, Lomonosov’s chief engineer for environmental protection.

“Of course, what happened in Chernobyl cannot happen again…. And as it’s going to be stationed in the Arctic waters, it will be cooling down constantly, and there is no lack of cold water.”

The scale is indeed very different, with the Chernobyl plant having produced up to 4,000 megawatts, while the Lomonosov can manage a maximum of just 70 megawatts.

Nuclear authorities have drawn more specific parallels with the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan. Project engineers say they paid attention to lessons learned at Fukushima.

“This rig can’t be torn out of moorings, even with a 9-point tsunami, and we’ve even considered that if it does go inland, there is a backup system that can keep the reactor cooling for 24 hours without an electricity supply,” said Dmitry Alekseenko, deputy director of the Lomonosov plant.

Experts at Bellona – a nuclear monitoring NGO – say 24 hours might not be enough to prevent a disaster. The floating reactor comes with a price tag of around AU$450 million, and its designers are looking to enter production of more units.

Rosatom has reportedly spoken to clients from Asia, Africa and South America to purchase next iterations of Akademik Lomonosov. For further details refer www.industrialcareers.com.au

Warwick Giblin now Adjunct Professor at the University of New England”   This information is distributed to delegates to show that MERC only associates with and uses the best consultants available with an interest in MERC activities and this linkage may benefit MERC with potential PhD students in the future as per our Strategic Plan.

Note the following from Warwick: “Humbled and honoured to advise that I have been appointed Adjunct Professor at the University of New England (UNE). This is an honorary position attached to the School of Law. My consulting activities with Oz Environmental Pty Ltd remain unchanged.

UNE has a strong rural focus and am looking forward to sharing my operational experience with staff, students and other stakeholders of the School of Law, the School of Business and more broadly across the Faculty of Science, Agriculture, Business and Law, as appropriate.

At the end of the day my objective is to do whatever I can to improve the environmental, social and economic outcomes for rural society”. 

Mining to push NSW towards surplus with no royalty increase”  New South Wales mining royalties are at record levels and forecast to keep the state budget in surplus over the forward estimates to 2022-23. (Courtesy Ron Zwicker, Wollongong City Council, from an article in the Australian Mining Review recently this article and the one following):

“New South Wales mining royalties are at record levels and forecast to keep the state budget in surplus over the forward estimates to 2022-23, despite the sector having no major impact on the 2019-20 state budget. Mining royalties in NSW are estimated to deliver almost $8 billion, or an annual average of $1.97 billion, to the state over the next four years. In the same period, NSW budget surpluses are expected to average $1.7 billion.

Mining communities across NSW will also reportedly welcome the Treasurer’s move in keeping his pre-election commitment to not increase royalty rates. “Strong royalty revenue is being delivered without increasing royalty rates, unlike other states where royalty increases have been proposed,” NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee said. “Keeping this pre-election commitment will help to protect mining jobs across regional NSW and make NSW a more attractive destination for global mining investment.”

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet in his ‘heartfelt tribute’ recognised a miner in the public gallery at the Parliament, saying, “He knows, as we do, just how much we depend on our miners for their contribution to our economy, and just how much they depend on us to do the right thing by them with policies that help, rather than hurt.”

Galilee pointed out “that there are around 25 mining projects in the NSW planning system, which could use an approval to generate more royalty revenue. Approving these projects would deliver significant benefits for mining communities, for the NSW budget and for the NSW economy more generally,” he concluded.

“Coal to virtually disappear from 2050 electric power system” Coal is forecast to almost completely disappear from Australia’s electricity system by 2050 if governments do not attempt to keep plants online with subsidies, according to the Bloomberg NEF (BNEF) New Energy Outlook 2019.

Coal is forecast to almost completely disappear from Australia’s electricity system by 2050 if governments do not attempt to keep plants online with subsidies, according to the latest economic analysis in the Bloomberg NEF (BNEF) New Energy Outlook 2019.

Coal-fired capacity is predicted to fall from 25 gigawatts in 2018 (generating 63 per cent of the country’s electricity), to 18 gigawatts in 2030, and just six gigawatts in 2040. Power stations will instead be powered by lower-cost renewables, paired with flexible technologies like batteries, pumped-hydro and gas.

These technologies will ensure the power sector does its part in keeping global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, at least until 2030. Renewables are already the cheapest source of new generation in Australia, and their costs will continue to fall, according to BNEF.

“Australia’s existing fleet of ageing coal plants, which have been the backbone of the electricity sector for years, will be the last coal generators in the country,” BNEF head of Australia Leonard Quong said.

“Cheap renewables, firmed with a variety of storage technologies, have set Australia on a path to achieve low-carbon electricity by 2050. The future grid will be underpinned by cheap wind and solar, with batteries and pumped hydro to smooth variability, while gas and long-duration storage will provide additional backup to the market.”

“Our analysis suggests that governments need to do two separate things – one is to ensure their markets are friendly to the expansion of low-cost wind, solar and batteries; and the other is to back research and early deployment of these other technologies so that they can be harnessed at scale from the 2030s onwards,” BNEF’s New Energy Outlook director Seb Henbest added.

Consumers also play a key role in this transformation, according to Quong. Households and businesses buying solar, batteries and increasingly electric vehicles represents “an economic tidal wave” that will reshape the market.

They have installed around 10 gigawatts of solar on their rooftops today, with the figure set to surge to 38 gigawatt by 2030 as the costs of solar continue to fall and new business models make solar even more accessible to consumers, according to the report.

By 2050, rooftop solar capacity will increase to 61 giga watt, enough to supply nearly one quarter of the country’s electricity demand. At the same time, Australia will invest $US107 billion ($155.6 billion) into renewable energy generation, with coal receiving almost no new capital.

New Energy Outlook 2019 is the result of eight months of analysis and modelling by a 65-strong team at BNEF, based on the announced project pipelines in each country, plus forecast economics of electricity generation and power system dynamics.

It assumes that current subsidies expire and energy policies around the world remain on their current bearing.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is divesting from coal and oil”. From Industrial Careers, 17TH June 2019: The country’s Government Pension Fund Global must offload billions in stock after Norway’s parliament approved tighter investment rules.

The fund was already prevented from investing in companies that derive more than 30 per cent of revenue from coal, and now cannot invest in companies that mine more than 20 million tonnes of coal annually or generate more than 10 gigawatts of power from coal.

The fund holds stakes in commodities giant Glencore, as well as investments in Australian companies BHP, South32 and AGL Energy.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund will also offload some stakes in oil and gas explorers and producers, but retain shares of integrated energy companies like Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil.

The fund was set up specifically to push petroleum revenues from the nation’s North Sea oil fields into welfare and other social spending.

It has grown to the point that oil and gas companies now represent just 5.9 per cent of its equity investments, with stakes in more than 9,000 companies worldwide.

The Government of Norway is also the majority shareholder in Equinor – the company looking to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

 

Contacts

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

MERC Newsletter – May 2019

Introduction

Delegates, here is the May 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 was held 2nd May 2019 to consider the position papers by NSWMC (on the implications of autonomous mining for VPAs) and 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 meeting was realistic in that where there was general agreement that while neither organisation was likely to be able to mandate use of a particular methodology by their members, there was a reasonable prospect of the Committee identifying a mix of methodologies that could be used in combination to address the concerns of members. This could be recommended by both organisations to their respective members and would have some utility in streamlining future VPA negotiations. It was also highlighted that this approach may have greater utility for application to smaller, non-coal operations.

NSWMC members reiterated that they were open to such an approach, but that their membership would not agree to any mixed methodology that did not involve some proportion calculated via the Worker Domicile Model. NSWMC will also need to have a clear rationale to support further costs which are outside this model, but noted that a generalised, ‘black box’ figure on top of that calculated through the Worker Domicile Model could potentially be justified as a consideration to impacted communities if reasonable. Certainty and predictability of costs is a key concern of their members.

The Committee agreed to work together to develop a VPA framework agreement (including scope and calculation methodologies) for consideration at the next Committee meeting to be held on 23rd August 2019 in Sydney. Both parties agreed that the future of the Committee should be considered if no substantive progress was made at the next meeting.

On 10th May 2019 MERC members agreed that they would support such a mixed contributions model approach consisting of any of the following:

  • A model utilizing a % of Capital Expenditure and/or a cents per Cents per Production cost;
  • A combination of % Capital Expenditure and/or Cents per Production cost of 70% and a Worker Domicile Model of 30%;
  • A worker Domicile Model based upon a sliding scale which recognises the economic befit for the host Council;
  • Each Council has the opportunity to negotiate their own VPA models irrespective of the aforementioned models.

MERC is to submit a paper on the VPA framework agreement including the scope and methodologies for these mixed contributions models. As well, MERC is to develop a Statement in conjunction with the NSW Minerals Council and the VPA Steering Committee that outlined the foregoing.

Despite this, it was further agreed that if these methodologies are not agreed to or substantive progress can’t be made during the negotiations, then the Chair of the VPA Steering Committee is to be advised that negotiations will cease and MERC will withdraw from the Committee.

Next meeting is to be in Sydney on 23rd August 2019. Meanwhile, Glenn Wilcox (Life Member, Warren Shire Council) has provided his “Mining Calculator” to the VPA working party to trial as another option and comments will be provided to delegates about this model in due course.

 

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

MERC will continue to canvass 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.

Phil Donato (MP for Orange and leader in the Legislative Assembly for the Shooters Fishers & Farmers  Party) and Roy Butler (MP for Barwon and from Shooters, Fishers & Farmers party met delegates on Friday 10th May 2019 at Forbes Services Memorial Club. Both indicated that their party would support such a review and a change to a Royalties for Regions program with a set % of royalties returned to Councils in mining affected regions to assist with the infrastructure, social and economic impacts.

Given the need for the government to have support for legislation changes from the minor parties, it is fortuitous that MERC has the support of the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party who have requested a submission on the issue so they can pursue it in parliament as part of their “bias for the bush” campaign mantra and would like regular and open dailogue with MERC on this basis. Whilst not in the Coalition parties, hopefully they are able to use their position to create opportunities for the mining affected regions of NSW.

 

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, Don Harwin has been replaced by Hon Matt Kean, Minister for Energy & Environment), 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 Cr Hasler regularly relayed to MERC, will not occur.

 

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. The meeting cycle for 2020 will be determined at the Annual General Meeting. Dates will be confirmed by the Executive in due course 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.

 

Speakers for next meetings of MERC

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

  • Felicity Greenway, DPE (PIE), Acting Executive Director of the Integrity & Ethics Unit to address delegates on the 19 recommendations of the Kaldas Review Report, which the DPE (PIE) have adopted all of them and progress with them;
  • Tony Corbett, Port of Newcastle, Trade & Business Development Manager, for an update on mineral movements out of the Port of Newcastle and future changes;
  • David Kittoes, Executive Director, Resource Assessments and Business System, DPIE on his role and on any changes proposed with planning assessments;
  • Dr Alex King or Kristina Erzikov & Jessica Rossell, DPIE, Resources Planning and Geosciences for an update on their review of monitoring mining processes in NSW.

MERC will be pursuing the following speakers for future meetings when congratulating them on their re election and ministerial appointments:

  • 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 Gladys Berijiklian, Premier, Liberal Party;
  • Hon John Barilaro, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, Investment & Trade

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

 

Life Membership Updates – Mitchell, Connor and Cr Brady OAM

Life membership badges, plaques and certificates will be presented to Cr Lilliane Brady OAM and Col Mitchell at the August Ordinary meeting in Sydney with Chris Connor opting for Gloucester in November 2019.

 

Coal Seam Gas Policy

The amended Coal Seam Gas Policy was adopted with some minor changes. However, a Notice of Motion will be 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 will submit 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

Delegates decided to go with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), (Dr Alexey Voinov and Dr Juan Castilla-Rho) with Peter Dupen as the PhD student to undertake the PhD Research project on participatory modelling of social licensing pathways in view of it  being “shovel ready”. This still leaves MERC with the option of undertaking a similar project with the University of Wollongong (UoW) SMART unit on a different topic in due course.

In recent discussions with the PhD student, arrangements are being made to formalise the grant application and the development of 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. The MERC working party will be involved in this and on how the project will work to benefit MERC members in due course. Peter Dupen will address delegates at the August meeting on progress with the project.

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. It may not lead to anything given our respective positions with the VPA, but worth a shot.

 

Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

“Australian mining sector to flourish in a little over a decade”   Richard Szabo, 10th May 2019, Australian Mining Review writes “ In a little over a decade from now, the Australian mining sector will flourish in a different playing field, a new official document has revealed.

Asia is predicted to produce more than half the world’s economic output, consume 40 per cent of its energy and be home to a middle class of almost 3.5 billion people by the year 2030. If the Australian mining sector can maintain its global share of commodity production, at least 24,000 new direct mining jobs could be created, according to the Federal Government’s National Resources Statement.

The first such statement released in over 20 years outlines how regulatory authorities can effectively attract investment and develop new resources and markets. The strategy also focuses on creating well-paid and secure jobs, investing in new technology to improve environmental outcomes and ensuring local communities receive any flow-on benefits of mining.

In addition to this, the government will continue supporting development of new resource basins, through an existing memorandum of understanding with the Northern Territory on the development of the Beetaloo Basin, and also invest in seismic and aero-magnetic surveys to help discover the next major mineral find through the $100 million Exploring for the Future program.

A new critical minerals work program will separately be established to boost exploration and develop a data strategy to de-risk investment decisions. Funding applications for vital minerals projects will also be prioritised under the $20 million Round 7 of the Cooperative Research Centres Project.

The government believes there is a bright future ahead for the Australian mining sector due to rapid economic growth across the Asia Pacific region.

“Our resources sector makes up 8 per cent of our economy and exports are predicted to reach a record $250 billion in 2018–19. It also employs around 1.1 million people directly and indirectly, and is the largest employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Senator Matt Canavan said in a public statement. “Our work starts now … taking action now means a stronger and more robust resources sector into the future. This National Resources Statement will help keep us at the top of our game and pave the way for decades of prosperity for all Australians.”

The statement was released in response to recommendations from the Resources 2030 Taskforce commissioned by the government in 2018.

“Caterpillar secures Koodaideri self – driving trucks”   Mining Editor, May 2019, Australian Mining Review  “Rio Tinto’s Koodaideri iron ore mine in Western Australia will utilise a fleet of 20 autonomous Caterpillar self-  driving trucks (793F mining haul trucks) in addition to four autonomous blast drills to improve safety and productivity.

In a media release today, Rio Tinto confirmed a deal to purchase the self-  driving trucks and other autonomous mining equipment had been inked. Caterpillar will also supply a range of other mining equipment for the Koodaideri operation.

“Beyond the autonomous fleet, Caterpillar will also provide loaders, dozers, graders, water carts and diggers for the operation which will be Rio Tinto’s first Pilbara mine to be primarily operated using Caterpillar machinery,” Rio said.

Rio Tinto has previously stated that the first production roles are expected to commence in 2021 and the Koodaideri operations would create over 2000 jobs during construction and 600 permanent roles. Caterpillar self – driving trucks will now feature as core mine haulage.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury previously said that the Koodaideri project would be a significant leap forward for the global mining industry and the company. “We’ve been building mines in the Pilbara for over 50 years, and, subject to final approvals, Koodaideri will incorporate all of that knowledge to enable us to build the smartest, safest and most efficient mine we’ve ever constructed,” Salisbury said. Rio Tinto plans in place to increase its autonomous haulage fleet to more than 140 by the end of 2019.

“CO2 better hydraulic fracking fluid than H20”  Industrial Careers, 30th May 2019. Refer www.industrialcareers.com.au. “Chinese scientists say CO2 may make a better hydraulic fracturing fluid than water. The finding could help pave the way for a more eco-friendly form of fracking that would double as a mechanism for storing captured atmospheric CO2.

In normal fracking operations, fluid (usually water mixed with sand, foaming agents, biocides, and other chemicals) is injected into rock, fracturing it to release the resources within. Of the approximately 7-15 million litres of fluid injected, 30 to 50 per cent, remains in the rock formation after extraction ends.

Its high water consumption, environmental risks, and frequent production issues have led to concerns about fracking among both industry experts and environmental advocates.

“Non-aqueous fracturing could be a potential solution to circumvent these issues,” says Professor Nannan Sun, a researcher in the Shanghai Advanced Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “We chose CO2 fracturing from a range of options because the process includes multiple benefits. However, we were still lacking a fundamental understanding of the technology, which is greatly important for its further development and deployment.”

Benefits of CO2 fracturing include eliminating the need for a hefty water supply (which would make fracking viable in arid locations), reducing the risk of damage to reservoirs (as often happens when aqueous solutions create blockages in the rock formation), and providing an underground repository for captured CO2.

“We demonstrated that CO2 has higher mobility than water, and, therefore, the injection pressure can be better delivered into the natural porosity of the formation,” Prof Sun says. “This changes the mechanism by which the fractures are created, generating more complex fracture networks that result in more efficient shale gas production.”

While the researchers believe this hydraulic fracturing technology will be scalable, its large-scale development is currently limited by CO2 availability. The cost of CO2 captured from emission sources is still prohibitively expensive to make CO2 an industry-wide fracking fluid replacement.

The team also notes that once CO2 has been injected into the fracture, it acquires a low viscosity that inhibits it from effectively transporting sand to the fractures. Since the sand is intended to prop open the fractures while shale gas is harvested, it is critical that scientists learn to improve the fluid’s viscosity. The team is not yet sure how to do so while keeping costs low and minimizing the environmental footprint.

SMH 26 Nov 2018:Rio Tinto warns climate inaction poses ‘greatest long-term threat’ 9From Warwick Giblin) Nic Tascano writes. “The new chairman of global mining giant Rio Tinto has described inaction on climate change as “perhaps the greatest long-term threat” facing the business and promised it would be part of the solution rather than the problem.

Speaking at an investor meeting on Monday, Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said society – particularly Millennials – were demanding higher standards from the companies they worked for and invested their money in. He signalled a renewed emphasis from Rio Tinto’s board on environmental, social and governance issues, and on continuing to reshape its portfolio for the transition to a “low-carbon economy”. “Perhaps the greatest long-term threat to Rio Tinto is if business, investors, consumers and especially governments, collectively fail to take action on climate change,” he said.

Rio Tinto is among a number of major mining and resources companies to escalate warnings against political inaction on global warming and call for a price on carbon, despite the Morrison government rejecting the need to overhaul climate policies before the next federal election.

Mr Thompson said the mining industry recognised that it had a profound impact on wider society, both positive and negative. It creates jobs, tax revenue, economic prosperity for remote regions, and the raw materials that are “essential for human progress”, he said.

But it also has negative environmental and social impacts, including land disturbance, significant water consumption and climate change. Sustainability, social responsibility and other so-called ESG (environmental, social, governance) issues are growing focus areas for mining companies in Australia and worldwide in the face of heightened scrutiny from investors and a spate of shareholder resolutions targeting heavy emitters.

The International Council on Mining and Metals told a mining conference in Melbourne earlier last month that there had been a “convergence” of the environmental and social demands of communities in which miners operated and the demands of institutional shareholders.

Mr Thompson said the Rio Tinto board considered investment in ESG issues to be a “source of differentiation”. He said the company’s portfolio was in “very, very good shape” as climate change had “been integrated into our strategic planning for nearly two decades”.

“Many of the global mega trends that we see today do indeed support demand for our products – for example, urbanisation and the growth of the middle class. But others clearly pose a major threat,” he said.

“I hope that the centrality of ESG issues to many of our board discussions is already evident, as we continue to reshape our portfolio for the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

“Salt water tomato farm sells”  ABC News, courtesy Steve Loane:

A world-leading agriculture business that uses renewable energy to grow tomatoes has been sold in South Australia, but the final price is a closely-guarded secret.

Agriculture business Sundrop Farms has been sold to trans-Tasman infrastructure investment firm, Morrison and Co. for an undisclosed amount. The company runs a world-first facility in Port Augusta that uses thousands of mirrors to capture sunlight, as well as seawater, which it desalinates, to grow tomatoes. Morrison and Co., which owns other renewable energy investments, said the facility would be the fund’s top priority over pilot plants in Tennessee and Portugal.

After a year-long process the company has bought by trans-Tasman infrastructure investment firm, Morrison and Co. for an undisclosed amount. Sundrop Farms opened the only facility of its kind in the world at Port Augusta in South Australia in 2016, and uses sunlight and seawater to grow tomatoes.

The facility uses more than 23,000 mirrors to capture sunlight and direct it to a central receiver at the top of a 127-metre “power” tower. All the water used for irrigating the crops is piped from the Spencer Gulf and converted into fresh water using a thermal desalination unit.

At its peak it produces 39 megawatts of thermal energy, which is used for electricity, heating and making water. The commercial facility cost about $200 million to build, with private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR) investing $100 million.

The facility produces about 17,000 tonnes of truss tomatoes a year and holds a 10-year supply contract with Coles Australia. The company’s pilot plants in Tennessee and Portugal were sold prior to the Morrison and Co. deal.

“Cumulative impact grounds an increasing challenge for proponents of large-scale wind farms in NSW”   By Claire Smith, Emma Whitney and Jessica Lighton, Clayton Utz

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s decision highlights the increasing significance of a proposed project’s impact to visual amenity, particularly its cumulative visual impact. As renewable projects increase, so do planning objections, with visual and noise amenity as the two most commonly cited impacts raised by objectors. The NSW Wind Energy Guideline (2016) acknowledges that visual impact is an assessment criterion particularly relevant to wind energy developments, noting that the height, scale and mechanical character of wind turbines creates an unavoidable level of visibility and contrast with the natural environments in which they are situated. Further, multiple wind energy projects in close proximity can cause cumulative impacts on a particular landscape and people’s enjoyment.

Under the Framework, consent authorities must consider the acceptability of visual impacts on landscape values and the amenity of landholders and communities, as well as the adequacy of measures in development proposals to avoid, reduce or manage these impacts. Those impacts are assessed in accordance with the NSW Wind Energy: Visual Assessment Bulletin (2016) which covers appropriate site-selection and environmental assessment.

How all of this is playing out in practice is becoming clearer, with cumulative impacts playing a major role in the NSW Government’s recommendation that a large-scale wind farm in the Southern Highlands be refused on the grounds that the location was fundamentally not suitable because of the cumulative visual and landscape impacts of multiple wind turbines in the locality. 

 

The cumulative impacts of another wind farm in Crookwell

Crookwell, a town in the Southern Highlands, and its surrounds are home to five wind farms, which between them have 195 turbines. Under the Crookwell 3 wind farm proposal, 23 turbines up to 157 metres in height, with a capacity of up to 96MW, would be constructed around five km from the town in two clusters either side of the existing 32-turbine Crookwell 2 Wind Farm which is operated by the same proponent, Crookwell Development Pty Ltd (CDPL) (a subsidiary of Global Power Generation Pty Ltd). Seventeen of the proposed 23 turbines would be less than 2.1 km from residences, with some as close as 1.1 km.

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment recommended that the State significant development application for the Project be refused because of its significant cumulative visual impacts on the surrounding landscape and residents.

The application has now be referred to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) for final determination – the second time the Project has been sent to the IPC. In 2015, the Department sent an earlier version of the Project (which proposed 29 turbines) to the IPC, recommending that approval be granted. However, the IPC expressed concerns about the Project and sent it back to the Department. This triggered CDPL to amend the proposal (including reducing the number of turbines to 23) which it resubmitted to the Department for assessment. 

Despite this reduction in number the Department found the amended Project unacceptable because: the Project would result in unacceptable direct and cumulative visual impacts on residences, public viewpoints and the surrounding landscape; the Project would result in unacceptable impacts on the landscape character and significant landscape features; the majority of submissions from residences in the local area object to the Project and Upper Lachlan Shire Council maintains residual concerns about the impacts of the Project; the Project is not consistent with the current land use “environmental management” zoning provisions; and the Project is not in the public interest.

In assessing the public interest, the Department concluded the potential impacts of the proposed wind farm outweigh its predicted benefits. While the Department acknowledged the amendments made to the proposal to reduce impacts, and that CDPL had reached an agreement with multiple landowners, it considered the local landscape currently has a limited capacity to absorb further changes from wind farm development, and the specific location and scale of the project would result in material impacts on local landscape values and features.

 

Handling the visual impacts of future wind farm proposals

This is not the first time the Department has rejected a large-scale wind farm proposal. The proposed Jupiter Wind Farm located in Tarago in the Southern Tablelands was recommended for refusal by the Department twice (in October 2015 and February 2018) on grounds that the proposal would have unacceptable visual impacts on the surrounding landscape. The October 2015 refusal also cited a failure by the proponents to adequately address the noise impacts and properly consult with the local community. The Jupiter project originally included 100 turbines with a capacity of up to 350MW but was decreased to 54 turbines following initial discussions with the Department. In its reasons for refusal, the Department stated that the proposal was inconsistent with local land use “environmental management” zoning provisions and the site was fundamentally unsuitable for the project. The proposal was referred to the IPC for determination following the Department’s February 2018 recommendation but the application was withdrawn in March 2018.

There are clear similarities between both the proposed Jupiter and Crookwell 3 wind farms as well as the reasons cited by the Department for its refusal in each case despite the fact the Crookwell 3 project is approximately half the scale of the revised Jupiter proposal. These similarities indicate impacts on visual amenity, especially when combined with community resistance and cumulative impacts of existing project’s, will continue to feature more prominently within the Department’s assessment of any proposed wind farm project.

The Department’s decision highlights the increasing significance placed on the impact to visual amenity by a proposed project, particularly in locations with existing major wind farm projects, where the cumulative visual impact may become a prominent consideration. Proponents should therefore give due consideration to strategies or designs to reduce the impact of a proposed project on the visual amenity of the surrounding landscape, as well as clearly and effectively consulting with the local community to address concerns. (16/5/19)

 

Contacts

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

 

MERC Newsletter – April 2019

Introduction

Delegates, here is the April 2019 MERC Newsletter (pre Federal Election issue). 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 was held 2nd May 2019 to consider the position papers by NSWMC (on the implications of autonomous mining for VPAs) and 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 meeting was realistic in that where there was general agreement that while neither organisation was likely to be able to mandate use of a particular methodology by their members, there was a reasonable prospect of the Committee identifying a mix of methodologies that could be used in combination to address the concerns of members. This could be recommended by both organisations to their respective members and would have some utility in streamlining future VPA negotiations. It was also highlighted that this approach may have greater utility for application to smaller, non-coal operations.

NSWMC members reiterated that they were open to such an approach, but that their membership would not agree to any mixed methodology that did not involve some proportion calculated via the Worker Domicile Model. NSWMC will also need to have a clear rationale to support further costs which are outside this model, but noted that a generalised, ‘black box’ figure on top of that calculated through the Worker Domicile Model could potentially be justified as a consideration to impacted communities if reasonable. Certainty and predictability of costs is a key concern of their members.

MERC members agreed that they would likely support such an approach subject to the endorsement by members at the meeting on 10th May 2019 with a background report being provided to assist them with the decision. Verification processes for various VPA models were briefly discussed, and Committee members agreed that this should be considered and potentially written into a standardised agreement.

The Committee agreed to work together to develop a VPA framework agreement (including scope and calculation methodologies) for consideration at the next Committee meeting to be held on 23rd August 2019 in Sydney. 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 canvass 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.

The Mayor of Singleton Council and Deputy Chair of MERC, Cr Sue Moore indicated that the Deputy Premier, Hon John Barilaro, met with her Council recently and indciated that he is going to review the current Resources for Regions Program and this will mean the consideration of doing away with the BCR > 1 (Cost Benefit Ratio greater than one as a benefit for the State) which involves legislation change and to look at the contribution levels. Watch this space.

MERC has Phil Donato (MP for Orange and leader in the Legislative Assembly for the Shooters Fishers & Farmers  Party) and Roy Butler (MP for Barwon and from Shooters, Fishers & Farmers party attending our meetin on Friday 10th May 2019 at Forbes Services Memorial Club to talk about Respources for Region program being changed and other matters. The State Director of the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party Filip Despotoski emailed on 31st January 2019 to the Executive Officer the following statement:

“thanks for reaching out to Senada from our Parliamentary Office regarding

            support for Royalties for Regions policy. We would support such a policy”.

Given the need for the government to have support for legislation changes from the minor parties, it is fortuitous that we have Phil and Roy agree to meet delegates on 10th May 2019, to ensure this program format is changed to a Royalties for Regions set % provided direct to the LGA’s to utilsie or similar..

 

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, Don Harwin has been replaced by Hon Matt Kean, Minister for Energy & Environment), 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 Cr Hasler regularly relayed to MERC, will not occur.

 

Next Meetings of Association for 2019

The next Executive Committee meeting will be on 9th May 2019 and the Ordinary General Meeting next day on 10th February 2019, both meetings starting at 9am and held in the Forbes Memorial Services Club.

The Forbes Shire Council Events Coordinator Jolene has organised for delegates and partners arriving early on 9th May 2019 to participate in a tour departing the Forbes Memorial Services Club at 1pm of the multi stock Central West Livestock Exchange, to visit the VAST Solar farm then for a tour of the Amazing Sculpture then back to the Club by 4.30ish. The Network dinner that evening will be held in the Forbes Sport & Recreation Club Chinese Restaurant. Confirmation of numbers are required if not already advised the Executive Officer.

The demand for accommodation for motels in the Forbes CBD will be at a premium on 10th May 2019 due to the Van Fest Music event in town that night, so delegates need to contact them and book as soon as possible. Phone numbers for the motels in the CBD provided by Jolene are as follows:

Plainsman Motel – 6852 2466; Forbes Victoria Inn – 6851 2233; Econolodge Ben Hall Motor Inn – 6851 2345 and Country Mile Motor Inn – 6852 4099. There are other motel/ hotel  options available.

The August meetings are to be held in Sydney at Club York, Bass rooms on 8/9th August 2019 (same as February meeting for Executive Committee and Ordinary meetings).Mid Coast Council have now confirmed they will host the November meetings in Gloucester with 7/8th November 2019 for Gloucester. Dates will be confirmed by the Executive in due course, but by sticking with the pattern of second Thursday/Friday in the aforementioned months is what we are working on for your diaries.

 

Membership Campaign

Awaiting Coonamble Shire to respond. They have been invited to attend the meeting in Forbes as observers. 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 stregthen 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.

 

Speakers for next meetings of MERC

The Executive Officer has confirmed the following speakers fro the meeting in Sydney 8/9th August:

  • Felicity Greenway, DPE (PIE), Acting Executive Director of the Integrity & Ethics Unit to address delegates on the 19 recommendations of the Kaldas Review Report, which the DPE (PIE) have adopted all of them and progress with them;
  • Tony Corbett, Port of Newcastle, Trade & Business Development Manager, for an update on mineral movements out of the Port and future changes.

MERC will be pursuing 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 Gladys Berijiklian, Premier, Liberal Party;
  • Hon John Barilaro, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, Investment & Trade

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

 

Life Membership Updates – Mitchell, Martin, Connor and Brady

  • John Martin – The Chair and Executive Officer attended the Singleton Council meeting on 15th April 2019 and presented the Life membership Award Cr John Martin OAM. See article in this newsletter;
  • Cr Lilliane Brady OAM – Cr Brady OAM has submitted a letter of thanks to the Executive officer and requested its contents be circulated to delegates. The letter reads “I wish to thank you and each member of the Association for this prestigious honour. I am so grateful to receive a Lifetime Membership to the Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils (NSW) and I look forward to seeing you all at the next meeting. With all my heart, thank you. Lilliane Brady OAM, Mayor Cobar Shire Council”. A presentation will be made to Lilliane at the May meeting in Forbes;
  • Col Mitchell – Is elated with the award and is endeavouring to attend the MERC meeting in Sydney on 9th August 2019 to receive his award;
  • Chris Connor – Is equally honoured to receive the Life Membership and is hoping to attend the meeting in Gloucester in November 2019 to receive his Award.

 

Research Fellowship Update

On 8th February 2019 at the Ordinary General Meeting, Dr Juan Castilla Rho, University of Wollongong, Research Fellow Particpatory Modelling, briefed delegates on the participatory modelling research proposal with the three options, outputs and outcomes over 2-5 years with funding and MERC contributions.

The outputs will be participatory modelling workshops; part of a management flight simulator; in journal papers; presentation at International conferences; published in news and media outlets. The outcomes are expected to be the piloting of participatory modelling social licence pathways; facilitate the assessment of mining and energy proposals; project has the potential to be included in guidelines, best practice and ultimately planning regulation.

Since that time, Juan has found a PhD student for the project and the student has presented a paper to MERC delegates on how the project would work and he has also fine-tuned the timeframe and costings for the project. The details of them are included in the Business paper for the Ordinary General meeting to be held on 10th May 2019 to consider the project.

However, Juan has now left the University of Wollongong and moved to the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to lecture in participatory modelling social licence pathways for them, working with an international expert in Alexey Voinov (Russian) who resides in Australia and the PhD student wants to go with him to UTS The University of Wollongong SMART team still wishes to be involved in the project, with MERC.

Delegates will need to consider all of the issues outlined in the Business Paper and to determine if MERC is to proceed with the project or not, and if so in what format and with which University and PhD student, at the 10th May meeting in Forbes.

 

Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

Environment gets another bite of the PIE in mega – agency  Jacob Saulwick and Peter Hannam write in the SMH 4-5 May 2019 weekend edition, that NSW will have an ‘environment’ department once more after the word was added to the mega – agency now called Planning, Industry and Environment (PIE). Jim Betts (ex Infrastructure NSW) will be the boss of the department that will cover the environment, housing, regional development, Aboriginal affairs, science, industry, planning, local government and government property.

Mr Betts said “Our cluster has been created by the Premier to deal with some of the most contentious issues of our era. We all want NSW to be prosperous, liveable, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive, but in pursuit of these goals there are sometimes difficult trade – offs to be made.”

In his letter to staff, Mr Betts stressed a commitment to tackle climate change and said the Environmnet Protection Authority (EPA) would remain independent. He also said “ We won’t waste time on pointless bureaucracy. We will be decisive, bold and constantly move forward with the government’s agenda”

Life membership honour for long-serving Singleton Councillor for service to mining-related councils of NSW Singleton Council released the following media release dated 15th April 2019, under this title:

Former mayor of Singleton and long-time sitting councillor John Martin’s decades of service to the Association of Mining and Energy Related Councils of NSW has been recognised with Life Membership awarded at tonight’s ordinary council meeting. Association of Mining and Energy Related Councils of NSW Chairman Cr Peter Shinton and Executive Officer Greg Lamont were at the meeting to make the presentation.

The Association represents a diverse number of NSW councils with an interest in mining, energy and the developing coal seam gas (CSG) industries.  Cr Martin was informally involved in the Association stemming back to 1993 and served as a delegate between 2008 and 2016 including as a member of the executive committee, helping to write the guidelines that would pave the way for voluntary planning agreements.

He said he was particularly proud that Singleton and Muswellbrook Councils were the first to receive Royalties for Regions funding, although “it hadn’t happened as much as he’d like since then. The Association is an important organisation because it is a voice of local government on mining and now energy to our government departments about matters such as Resources for Regions, and the improvements needed for industries so far as councils are concerned,” Cr Martin said.

“It gives council a voice to the government on mining and energy-related issues as they directly relate to the people in our community.  For me, the presentation and life membership means that it’s for our council, because I didn’t do any of this work for myself – I did it on behalf of our council. We’ve made a lot of forceful representations over the years and had a few successes, and a few that didn’t get up too well.”

In presenting the award, Cr Shinton said he acknowledged Cr Martin’s outstanding contribution to the Association, describing him as an “absolute gentleman, full of credible information. The life membership honour was in recognition of John’s efforts in making a significant contribution to the success of the Association as the peak body in NSW, empowering and advocating on behalf of councils of NSW that are impacted by mining and energy developers,” he said.

“It gives me great pleasure to bestow this badge, certificate and plaque in the recognition John deserves from his peers, as a distinguished member of our Association.”

 Rushed new Queensland solar rules to drive up costs, and lead to industry slow-down Clean Energy Council , 2nd May 2019 article highlights some solar issues that could cause ructions in NSW as follows:.

New rules rushed through by the Queensland Government are likely to hit the commercial solar sector hard when they come into effect in less than two weeks, and will make it harder for the state to meet its own renewable energy target, the Clean Energy Council said today. Anna Freeman, the Clean Energy Council’s Director of Energy Generation, said the new regulations for solar meant that electricians had to be used for work such as carrying unplugged solar panels or bolting them to a rail.

“This is like having to call in an electrician to hang a TV on a bracket on your wall. It’s absurd. It would be virtually impossible to electrocute yourself by handling an unconnected panel. You’re at greater risk from plugging in a toaster at home,” Ms Freeman said.     

“The changes will drive up the cost of building both large solar farms and commercial solar systems installed in places like shopping centres, schools, swimming pools and factories. Estimates from solar businesses are that the cost of building commercial projects will increase by 10 to 20 per cent, delaying the payback period for businesses and schools, and making many projects unviable.

“Combined with the effect on large-scale solar farms, these changes will slow the installation of solar across the state and make it more costly for businesses to control their energy costs. Not even an electrical apprentice will be able to handle and attach an unconnected solar panel, so the opportunities for apprentices to work in the new solar industry are going to be slashed. At the very time in which the Federal Labor Party announces its commitment to boost apprenticeships in renewable energy, the Queensland Government continues to persist with a regulation that will kill off many clean energy apprenticeships.

“From 13 May, those businesses which already have projects under construction are going to have to wear this extra cost, without the ability to pass this on to their customers. This means many small- to medium-sized businesses will be out of pocket,” she said.

Ms Freeman said that the sudden regulatory change had not been justified, with the government not able to demonstrate a single safety incident on a solar farm relating to the mounting and fixing of solar panels. “To our knowledge, no other jurisdiction on the planet has such extreme and unnecessary regulation in place,” she said.

 “We are asking the government to immediately delay this new regulation before people start losing their jobs, so that proper consultation can take place with the solar industry. “If the Palaszczuk Government is willing to return to the table, we are confident that we can work co-operatively together with all parties to find a way forward that does not destroy jobs and investment.”  


New gas terminal for Port Kembla
From the NSW Government’s NSW News 3rd May is the following article: A new gas terminal at Port Kembla will create local jobs, help to bring down household gas bills and achieve energy security into the future.

The NSW Government has given planning approval for Australian Industrial Energy to construct the gas terminal at Port Kembla. The new terminal will accommodate Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) carrier ships, a floating LNG handling facility, wharf infrastructure and a pipeline to connect to the existing NSW east coast gas network nearby.

Once operational, the terminal could supply 70 per cent of the state’s annual gas demand and help to ease the cost of energy bills for the 33,000 businesses and a million households in NSW that depend on natural gas.  With the creation of 150 jobs during construction and up to 50 ongoing roles once operational, the terminal is also a major boost for the economy.  

Before approving the terminal, the NSW Government assessed the environmental, social and economic impacts identified by community, government and independent stakeholders.

Planning approval includes conditions to:

  • manage impacts during the construction of the import terminal, including excavation and dredging activities in Port Kembla harbour and management of contaminated materials and acid sulphate soils
  • manage hazards and risks associated with the operation of the LNG import facility and gas pipeline
  • regulate and monitor air and water discharges from the project during construction and operations.

Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean said the Port Kembla gas terminal will be a game-changer for improving energy security and helping to ease energy costs. “It could support gas-fired electricity generation in NSW and help make sure we have reliable electricity.”

 

Uranium mine slides through. Industrial Careers, 29th April 2019 article states:

The Coalition appears to have signed off on a controversial uranium mine one day before calling the federal election, and did not announce it until the day before Anzac Day. The Yeelirrie Uranium mine in Western Australia is embroiled in a case in WA’s Supreme Court brought by members of the Tjiwarl traditional owners.

The former Liberal Barnett government controversially approved the mine in 2017, despite the state’s EPA advising it not be approved. Now, Environment Minister Melissa Price has announced the federal approval, which she says is subject to 32 strict conditions to avoid and mitigate potential environmental impacts.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney says the timing is suspicious. “We need decisions that are based on evidence and the national interest, not a company’s interest or not a particular senator’s or a particular government’s interest,” he said. “This reeks of political interference, rather than a legal consideration or due process.”

More information is available here.

Contacts

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

 

MERC Newsletter- March 2019

Introduction

Delegates, here is the March 2019 MERC Newsletter (Post state election edition). 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

The next meeting of the Steering Committee has been set down for 2nd May 2019 to consider the position papers by NSWMC (on the implications of autonomous mining for VPAs) and MERC (to review Umwelt’s Worker Domicile Model, 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 papers are to be distributed to parties before the next meeting.

MERC has engaged Oz Environmental to assist with this position paper, as they were part of the original working party and have done a lot of work on this already for MERC. The draft paper is due to be provided to the working party for its comments by 10th April 2019. The MERC VPA Steering Committee will seek delegates input in due course before the meeting on 2nd May 2019.

The parties are aiming to have an agreed position by 31/12/2019, hopefully changes within the new Department of Planning & Public Spaces (with Minister Stokes taking back over Planning) don’t interfere, given the new Cabinet the Premier has just announced. I have copied these in the Newsletter as information, given the importance of them to MERC.

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

The MERC Executive Committee agreed at its meeting on 7th February 2019, that a media release be prepared and forwarded to outlets throughout NSW to obtain as much coverage about the failure of the current Resources for Regions program to provide infrastructure for regions affected by mining related activities and the need for it to be replaced with a Royalties for Regions program. This approach is supported by Labor, the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers at State level and Federally former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (Nats).

The media release was printed in the Country Leader (that is included in the Fairfax papers distributed throughout rural NSW) albeit diminished in what was provided to the Northern Daily Leader journalist Jamieson Murphy, nevertheless, the message was clear that the current Resources for Regions programs were not working for rural NSW infrastructure and the opportunities were lost for some LGA’s in view of the tough criteria.

Here is what was printed in the Country Leader on 11th March 2019 headlined “Councils call for fair share” and written by Jamieson Murphy who said this – “‘ Mining Councils across the region have hit out at the state government, saying they wear the cost of supporting the industry without getting a fair return. Some of the royalties the NSW government reaps from mining go towards the Resources for Regions program, a pool of money that Councils with mining activity in their boundaries potentially use to help fund various projects. However, the 22 members of the Mining & Energy Related Councils (MERC) NSW say the program is ineffective and unfair.

To apply for the Resources for Regions’ funding, Councils must be prepared to fork out a half of the development’s total cost, which has since been dropped to 25 per cent when not enough Councils could afford it. Project must also be at least $1million and have a cost – benefit ratio that shows the development will benefit the NSW government – not the Council.

MERC Chair Peter Shinton said “The funding program needed to be overhauled. We have not recived a fair proportion of the royalties the mining companies have paid into consolidated revenue coffers of the government” Cr Shinton said. “The intention of the royalties levy on the miners, is that funds are supposed to be returned to the regions from where they were levied, in part, to assist with addressing our infrastructure shortcomings and with the social and economic impacts. This has been occurring since this Coalition government has been in power”

Labor Shadow Resources Minister, Adam Searle said “his party would develop a new Resources for Regions Model. We will ensure that mining communities have a greater say in the distribution of funds” he said”.

Following the Executive Officer’s approach to NSW Infrastructure enquiring about where the announcement with the Resources for Regions Round 6 grants were up to (on behalf of a request from the Mayor of a member Council who had been informed by the government that they were successful with grants but the government makes the announcement. This announcement did not occur before the caretaker period. A senior staff member from the Premier and Cabinet’s Department responded and indicated that the elected government made the decision not to announce the grants prior to the election, despite staff readiness.

However, some details were released informally, in the caretaker period up to the elections by the sitting members for Heathcote and Upper Hunter and for the Dubbo electorate from the same party, on the grants Councils in their areas were to receive, irrespective.

The senior bureaucrat from the Premier and Cabinet’s Department said the current Resources for Regions program wasn’t meeting its objectives which was a concern and the staff were going to review it, plus seek input from MERC and the NSW Minerals Council and submit the new program to the incoming government, to ensure a better deal for those Councils and communities affected by mining occurs.

There is widespread support for changing the existing program. The following email dated 31st January 2019, was received from the State Director, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party indicating their support for a “Royalties for Regions” approach to be considered in due course:  “Thanks for reaching out to Senada from our Parliamentary Office regarding support for Royalities for Regions policy. We would support such a policy…… Filip Despotoski, State Director – Shooters Fishers and Farmers”

Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

Clr Hasler (MERC delegate to RAF) has reported with the election on 23rd March 2019, it is not likely that a further meeting will be held until several months after the elections. The government has now been elected and has introduced portfolio changes that could affect the future of RAF.

New NSW Government Ministry

Announced by the Premier, Hon Gladys Berijiklian on 1st April 2019 is the new NSW Government  Ministry and those Ministers that are on particular “regional” interest areas for   MERC are:-

  • HON Gladys Berijiklian, Premier;
  • Hon John Barilaro, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, Industry & Trade;
  • Hon Dominic Perrottet, Treasurer;
  • Hon Paul Toole, Minister for Regional Transport and Roads;
  • Hon Andrew Constance, Minister for Transport and Roads;
  • Hon Robert Stokes, Minister for Planning & Public Spaces;
  • Hon Matthew Kean, Minister for Energy & Environment;
  • Hon Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW; and
  • Hon Shelley Hancock, Minister for Local Government.

What is of note with these appointments is the retention of John Barilaro with the Regional NSW portfolio and the creation of a Regional Transport and Roads portfolio under Minister Toole, MP for Bathurst, ex mayor of Bathurst and Evans Councils plus also having a cluster Minister for Transport & Roads under Minister Andrew Constance no doubt to oversee the Regional Transport & Roads. Portfolio of Minister Toole

The appointments have also split the old Planning and Environment portfolio to create Planning & Public Spaces and moved Environment in with Energy under a new Minister for the Energy & Environment portfolio. There are a few ex Mayors and Councillors among the above with Adam Marshall, ex Mayor Gunnedah Shire Council (MERC member) and Shelley Hancock a long term Councillor with Shoalhaven City Council.

All of the above should translate into a better understanding of regional local council needs for mining and energy related matters and provides an opportunity for MERC to pursue.

Add the new Shooters, Fishers & Farmers party members for Barwon (Roy Butler) and Murray (Helen Dalton), MERC has some new in experienced politicians to acquaint them with our strategic plan objectives and interests. Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture & Western NSW, MP Northern Tablelands has agreed already to attend a future meeting of MERC to meet delegates and talk about regional issues as the Western NSW Minister, dates and when to be confirmed. Roy Butler has been approached as the new Member for Barwon from the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers party to attend the Forbes meeting on 10th May 2019 to discuss Royalties for Regions in particular and mining and energy related matters afecting members fo MERC.

Next Meetings of Association for 2019

The next Executive Committee meeting will be on 9th May 2019 and the Ordinary General Meeting next day on 10th May 2019, both meetings starting at 9am and held in the Forbes Memorial Services Club.

The Forbes Shire Council Events Coordinator Jolene has organised for delegates and partners arriving early on 9th May 2019 to participate in a tour departing the Forbes Memorial Services Club at 1pm of the multi stock Central West Livestock Exchange, to visit the VAST Solar farm then for a tour of the Amazing Sculpture then back to the Club  by 4.30ish. The Network dinner that evening will be held in the Forbes Sport & Recreation Club Chinese Restaurant. Numbers are needed.

The demand for accommodation for motels in the Forbes CBD will be at a premium on 10th May 2019 due to the Van Fest Music event in town that night, so delegates need to contact them and book as soon as possible. Phone numbers for the motels in the CBD provided by Jolene are as follows:

Plainsman Motel – 6852 2466; Forbes Victoria Inn – 6851 2233; Econolodge Ben Hall Motor Inn – 6851 2345 and Country Mile Motor Inn – 6852 4099. There are other motel/ hotel  options available.

The August meetings are to be held in Sydney at Club York, Bass rooms on 8/9th August 2019 (same as February meeting for Executive Committee and Ordinary meetings).Mid Coast Council have now confirmed they will host the November meetings in Gloucester with 7/8th November 2019 for Gloucester. Dates will be confirmed by the Executive in due course, but by sticking with the pattern of second Thursday/Friday in the aforementioned months is what we are working on for your diaries.

Membership Campaign

Coonamble Shire Council has expressed an interest in being part of the Association and after discussions with the Mayor, who is very keen, a proposal has been forwarded for the Council to consider membership in view of their renewable energy potential and the Coal Seam Gas issues. The Council is currently recruiting for a General Manager which may interrupt the decision.

.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 stregthen 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.

Potential Speakers for next meetings of MERC

The Executive Officer has commenced chasing the following speakers for future meetings:

  • David Kitto, Executive Director of DPE Resource Assessments & Business systems team has been invited to attend in lieu his inability to attend the wind farming workshop and meeting next day at Crookwell in November last year;
  • Dr Alex King, Executive Director, Resources Policy, Planning & Programs, Division of Resources & Geoscience, DPE has been invited and has accepted to attend Forbes meeting 10th May 2019, to address delegates on engagement with non-industry stakeholders, the state and future of mining in NSW and his Division engaging more with local government going forward;
  • Nathan Laird, Director Legislative Updates, Policy and Strategy, DPE has been invited to address delegates on the devlopment of Community Participation Plans (CPP’s).He is currently organising a suitable person to attend the Forbes meeting on 10th May 2019;
  • Tony Corbett, Trade & Business Development Manager, Port of Newcastle has been suggested by life member Glenn Wilcox who suggested he be invited to provide an update on what is happening with coal & containers. He has advised will be available for the Sydney meeting in August;
  • Hon Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW, National Party;
  • Roy Butler, Member for Barwon, Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party NSW;
  • Hon Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning & Public Spaces, Liberal Party;
  • Matt Kean, Minister for Energy & Environment, Liberal Party;
  • Hon Gladys Berijiklian, Premier;
  • Hon John Barilaro, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, Investment & Trade

Life Membership Updates – Mitchell, Martin, Connor and Brady

  • John Martin – The Chair and Executive Officer have been requested to attend the Singleton Council meeting on 15th April 2019 to present the recently approved Life Membership to current Singleton Councillor (but no longer a delegate to MERC), Cr John Martin, which has been agreed to by the Chair and John in consutation with Singleton Council General Manager and staff. John was extremely honoured to be acknowledegd;
  • Cr Lilliane Brady OAM – Cr Brady OAM has submitted a letter of thanks to the Executive officer and requested its contents be circulated to delegates. The letter reads “I wish to thank you and each member of the Association for this prestigious honour. I am so grateful to receive a Lifetime Membership to the Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils (NSW) and I look forward to seeing you all at the next meeting. With all my heart, thank you. Lilliane Brady OAM, Mayor Cobar Shire Council”. A presentation will be made to her at the May meeting in Forbes;
  • Col Mitchell – Is elated with the award and is endeavouring to attend the MERC meeting in Sydney on 9th August 2019 to receive his award;
  • Chris Connor – Is equally honoured to receive the Life Membership and is hoping to attend the meeting in Gloucester in November 2019 to receive his Award.

 Research Fellowship Update

On 8th February 2019 at the Ordinary General Meeting, Dr Juan Castilla Rho, University of Wollongong, Research Fellow Participatory Modelling, briefed delegates on the participatory modelling research proposal with the three options, outputs and outcomes, as follows:

Option One – Research Agreement (4 year project) MERC & UoW – $35K pa each (cash and in kind), 1 Pilot case study (to be selected – mining, CSG, water resource, wind, etc.) and 1 PhD student, supervised by Dr Castilla and Prof Perez;

Option Two – OEH Environmental Research Grant (4 year project) MERC & UoW cost of $50K – $300K, to be split 50:50 depending on the grant quantum, with the involvement of 2 PhD students for 2 case studies, same supervision;

Option Three – ARC Linkage Project (2-5 year project) MERC & UoW – $50K – $300K (35/50% success rate), 3 Pilot studies, 3 PhD students, same supervision, plus Prof Moira Zellner, University of Illinois of Chicago, world leader in participatory steering of complex systems being involved in the workshops.

The outputs will be participatory modelling workshops; part of a management flight simulator; in journal papers; presentation at International conferences; published in news and media outlets. The outcomes are expected to be the piloting of participatory modelling social licence pathways; facilitate the assessment of mining and energy proposals; project has the potential to be included in guidelines, best practice and ultimately planning regulation. Below is a link to download the presentation:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FD0KEnGA08GNFx4s1IwVfVHLeweWTDYJ/view?usp=sharing

Delegates will need to determine if MERC is to proceed with the project or not, at the 10th May meeting in Forbes by having a discussion with your Councils, consideration of the benefits and funding options. Meanwhile, possible grant sources are being canvassed to cover the MERC  co contribution funds.

Discussions with Juan, Pascal and Executive Officer continue on the options if MERC decides to proceed. A decision will need to be made by MERC one way or another at the May meeting.

Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

“Autonomous trucks collide” From the Australian Mining Safety Journal, 19th March 2019.

BHP has confirmed that two autonomous mining trucks collided at the Jimblebar mine on Saturday evening at around 11.pm. A spokesperson for BHP confirmed that the autonomous truck incident occurred as a result of a loss of traction on slippery road surfaces when one vehicle slipped into the other. The trucks were travelling at relatively low speeds when the incident occurred. One truck was travelling at 27 km/h and the other at 14 km/h. No people were injured in the incident. The spokesperson said it followed “significant rainfall that deteriorated road surface, causing one vehicle to slip into the other. Operations resumed in the hours after the incident and no one was injured”

Jimblebar has successfully operated autonomous trucks since 2013 and reportedly run a 100% autonomous truck fleet since December 2017. An internal investigation is being conducted by BHP iron ore Jimblebar. The autonomous haul truck incident follows another minor incident at Fortescue Metals last month, details as follows:

An autonomous truck incident at Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) Christmas Creek operation this week has shone a light on the safety vulnerabilities of wireless mesh networks for the management of data associated with autonomous vehicles supplying a wide variety of sensory inputs. Fortescue Metals Group confirmed today that one of its Auto Haulage System (AHS) trucks reversed into another parked AHS truck at slow speed on Monday night.

According to reports in The West Australian, the back corner of the reversing truck smashed into the cab of the stationary truck. It is believed the incident may have occurred after a dropout in Wi-Fi coverage which facilitates the transfer of data from the truck to the communications centre. Fortescue Metals said in a statement that no one was hurt or at risk of being injured in Monday’s incident.

“This was not the result of any failure of the autonomous system,” Fortescue Chief Executive Elizabeth Gaines said in the statement. The media release confirmed that “No manned vehicles or people were involved and its AHS trucks have safely travelled more than 24.7 million kilometres since 2012.” FMG also confirmed that it is conducting a full investigation into the incident and will make details of the failure known to industry stakeholders and regulators.

Mesh network issues being investigated – Like all engineered systems, vulnerabilities and risks with systems are ever present and theoretically should be engineered out to remove those risks, however, many mesh network engineers have identified that failures can still occur in mesh networks for a variety of complex reasons. FMG says it’s investigating why the mesh network breakdown occurred.

For now, Fortescue will move on – FMG’s investigation will be one to watch by the industry. AMSJ suspects that as autonomous systems evolve at a rapid rate, incidents of this ilk will also continue to evolve in complexity. When a driver traditionally reversed into another vehicle in the past, the investigation was typically quite concise with causative factors quite clear. There wasn’t a need to check the amount of data being transferred through an ever-evolving and ageing mesh network that may have an increasing nodal failure rate. There wasn’t a need to check the efficacy of a sensor network, the speed of the packets of data or the actions of a controller in a control room. The times are a changing!

Meanwhile, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety confirmed the incident had been reported and that it would review the company’s internal investigation report to determine what further actions might be required. The Department’s Director of Mines Safety, Andrew Chaplyn, said he understood that information relating to the incident had been shared with Fortescue staff at pre-start meetings this week. “Fortescue is co-operating with the department’s inquiries,” he said. Refer to www.amsj.com.au 

Chinese coal mine divides NSW   From Industrial Careers, 11 March 2019.

There is serious disagreement in NSW over a proposed new coal mine. Chinese state-owned China Energy Engineering Corporation (CEEC) has announced plans to build 2000MW of new coal generation in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, north of Sydney.It is to be located in a failed industrial zone and feature two 1000MW plants utilising high intensity, high efficiency coal-fired technology. CEEC is a major Chinese military-civil investment vehicle, holding contracts for Egyptian military projects, China’s famous Three Gorges hydroelectric project, a nuclear power plant for Pakistan and several coal-fired power stations in the India, Indonesia, Ghana and Vietnam.

Coalition backbencher Craig Kelly has described the plan a “fantastic” and urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to give it some taxpayer subsidies. “This is exactly what the market needs,” Mr Kelly said. “If the Government needs to underwrite it, if it needs a little bit of help, then that’s what we should be doing.”

The Greens say a “veritable army” is massing to stop the planned plant. “We just had our hottest summer on record. If Labor or Liberal [parties] give this project the tick of approval then you will see civil disobedience in Australia on a scale never seen before,” Greens energy spokesperson Adam Bandt said. For more details refer www.industrialcareers.com.au dated 11th march 2019,

“Title fight has wide implications”  from Industrial Careers 11th March 2019

The High Court has ruled on a native title case considered one of the biggest since Mabo. It is the first time the High Court has examined the Native Title Act’s compensation provisions, including placing a value on intangible harm caused by disconnection with country.The claim was brought by Ngaliwurru and Nungali native title holders over rights that were extinguished by the Northern Territory Government in the 1980s and 1990s.

The court settled on a final compensation amount of $2.5 million, divided into three components — economic loss, interest and non-economic loss for “spiritual” harm caused by disconnection. “The compensation for loss or diminution of traditional attachment to the land or connection to country and for loss of rights to gain spiritual sustenance from the land is the amount which society would rightly regard as appropriate,” the majority judgement said. The decision has set a precedent for similar claims nationwide, indicated in part by the fact that the governments of Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia were “interveners” or interested parties in the case, stepping in to support the NT and Federal Governments’ positions.

The process began when Timber Creek native title holders were awarded $3.3 million in compensation for the extinguishment of their native title rights in 2016. That decision was challenged by the NT and Federal Governments, and the compensation amount was reduced to $2.9 million. The NT and Federal Governments and the Ngaliwurru and Nungali claim group both appealed that reduction. The Federal and NT Governments argued that the native title rights were “overvalued”.

They argued that the economic loss should be less than 50 per cent of the freehold value of the land. The High Court agreed, awarding $320,250 for that component. That decision was partly based on the fact that Timber Creek was covered by a pastoral lease in the 1880s, which meant traditional owners kept “non-exclusive” rights to hunt, fish and practice their law and culture. The Ngaliwurru and Nungali people argued that the loss of native title was worth the entire freehold market value of the land.

This week, the High Court determined that the economic loss was worth 50 per cent of the freehold value, but also affirmed the original decision that the group was entitled to interest on that payment, and $1.3 million for cultural loss. Lawyer Tony Denholder said it has huge implications for other claims. He said “That the small area of Timber Creek still triggered a compensation liability of over $2.5 million, will have strong implications for the more than 2,800,000 sq km of native title land holdings across the rest of Australia,” he said. “The high court’s decision will likely to trigger compensation applications from many of the hundreds of native title holder groups around Australia, who finally have clarity – albeit limited – on how they might quantify the compensation owed to them for impacts on their native title.”

The ruling raises questions for the mining, resources and agricultural sectors, with suggestions that governments could pass liability costs onto third parties. Minerals Council of Australia chief Tania Constable says the industry wants governments to “provide policy certainty to promote investment, jobs and sustainable regional communities” .Refer www.industrialcareers.com.au

“Pollution killing millions”   From Industrial Careers, 13th March 2019

New estimates say air pollution is responsible for up to 8.8 million extra deaths around the world each year. That suggests air pollution causes 1.6 million more deaths each year than tobacco, though smoking is avoidable but air pollution is not. The researchers used exposure data from a model that includes atmospheric chemical processes and the way they interact with land and sea, as well as chemicals emitted from natural and man-made sources such as energy generation, industry, traffic and agriculture.

These were applied to data from the WHO, which included information on population density, geographical locations, ages, risk factors for several diseases and causes of death. They focused particularly on levels of polluting fine particles known as ‘particulate matter’ that are less than or equal to 2.5 microns in diameter – known as PM2.5 – and ozone.

Worldwide, they found that air pollution is responsible for 120 extra deaths per year per 100,000 of the population. “The number of deaths from cardiovascular disease that can be attributed to air pollution is much higher than expected,” said co-author of the study, Professor Thomas Münzel, from the Department of Cardiology of the University Medical Centre Mainz in Germany.

As a result of these findings, the researchers say that national governments and international agencies must take urgent action to reduce air pollution, including re-evaluating legislation on air quality and lowering limits on the annual average levels of air pollution to match the WHO guidelines.

Canada, the USA and Australia use the WHO guideline, but the EU is lagging a long way behind in this respect. The study is accessible here. Refer www.industrialcareers.com.au, 13th March 2019

Farmers say they are priced out of water auctions by miners” From The Land, 1st March 2019.  

A recent auction at Gunnedah saw coal miner Whitehaven, who operate Maules Creek, Tarrawonga and the planned Vickery extension mines, successfully bid $930 a megalitre for 460mL of groundwater in Zone 4 for a temporary transfer licence. The under bidder was Boggabri coal. Farmers dropped out of the groundwater bidding at $300ml. At another auction in Narrabri recently a mine paid $5100ml for permanent Zone 5 groundwater. Evidence of another way farmers are adversely impacted by mining operations which is never considered in an EIS. Refer to www.theland.com.au

Community hear community concerns about coal” From Industrial Careers, 18th March 2019

Rural residents are discussing the future of coal and how it may affect them. Coal is the big employer in NSW’s Hunter Valley region, with around 9,000 workers across 40 different mines. But some countries are moving away from coal, miners are capping production and the industry has been caught in almost perpetual political spotlight, creating concern that regional industries will be caught short. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA)says that over 100 major financiers have withdrawn from thermal coal projects in the last five years. Energy giant Glencore – a major player in the Hunter Valley and other resource regions – says it will cap coal production in response to global warming. Analyst Tim Buckley says communities face a harsh transition. “The Hunter Valley is probably one of the most exposed communities, economies and states in the world to this long-term zero thermal coal use trajectory,” he told the ABC.

Environmental group Lock the Gate has brought in expert speakers from the US to address Hunter residents about what happens when the coal game falls apart. However, the mining lobby does not hold the same concerns.

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) says global energy demand — including coal power — is on track to climb 66 per cent in the next 20 years. MCA chief Tania Constable says developing countries will continue to rely on Australian coal. “India’s per capita electricity consumption, currently one-tenth that of Australia, is expected to double by 2030,” she said. She called for a focus on maintaining the “highly paid, highly skilled jobs” and “valuable export income” provided by mining. Refer www.industrialcareers.com.au

Contacts

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

MERC Newsletter – February 2019

Introduction

Delegates, here is the February 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

The first meeting of the Steering Committee, chaired by Stephen Free SC was held in Sydney on 15th February 2019, to address the outstanding issues with the quantum options for a VPA, etc to finalise this in 2019. The next meeting has been set down for 2nd May 2019.

At this meeting, it was agreed what the role of the Chair is to be (facilitate not arbitrate) and the role of the DPE (as observers). As well the parties have to verify the previously agreed negotiation framework and roads contributions calculator versions before the next meeting.

That left the outstanding issues to be resolved on the methodologies or principles for calculating non road contributions. Once position papers are prepared by NSWMC (on the implications of autonomous mining for VPAs) and MERC (to review Umwelt’s Worker Domicile Model, 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 papers are to be distributed to parties before the next meeting when they will be considered.

MERC has engaged Oz Environmental to assist with this position paper, as they were part of the original working party and have done a lot of work on this already for MERC. The MERC VPA Steering Committee will seek delegates input in due course before the meeting on 2nd May 2019. The parties are aiming to have an agreed position by end of 2019.

Resources for Regions (R4R) versus a Royalties for Regions Media Release

MERC Executive Committee agreed at its meeting 7th February 2019 that a media release be prepared and forwarded to outlets throughout NSW to obtain as much coverage about the failure of the current Resources for Regions program to provide infrastructure for regions and the need for it to be replaced with a Royalties fro Regions program. This is supported by Labor, the Shooters, Fishers,& Farmers at State level and Federally former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

This is to occur through the Northern Daily Leader journalist Jamieson Murphy with publications in the Namoi Valley Independent and Country Leader. Deputy Chair Cr Lilliane Brady OAM, Cobar Shire Council has also given this a run on the ABC and Cobar News recently as has the Mayor of Broken Hill Cr Darriea Turley. A copy of the media release forwarded to Jamieson Murphy is as follows:

INTRODUCTION OF A “ROYALTIES FOR REGIONS” PROGRAM LOOKING HIGHLY LIKELY”

 The Chair of the Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils NSW (MERC), Councillor Peter Shinton, said today: “The rural and regional Councils of NSW, affected by the impacts from mining and related activities, have not received a fair proportion of the royalties the mining companies have paid into the consolidated revenue coffers of the Government. The intention of the royalties levy on the miners is that funds are supposed to be returned to the regions from where they were levied (in part), to assist with addressing our infrastructure shortcomings and with the social and economic impacts. This hasn’t been occurring since this Coalition government has been in power.”

He said “Our Association has recognised this shortcoming on behalf of its’ members and requested the leaders of the major political parties to improve the situation and adopt a ‘Royalties for Regions’ program approach similar to WA, in order to replace the existing Resources for Regions program with its stringent criteria to a program that has a set percentage of the royalties being returned direct to the Councils, as a March 2019 election platform”.

“We invited them to address delegates at our quarterly meeting on this topic in Sydney on 8th February 2019, however only Labor attended the meeting and albeit Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party leaders advised that they could not attend, they, Labor and the NSW Minerals Council all support a Royalties for Regions program as outlined by the Association, on behalf of its members”.

Adam Searle, Labor MLC, Opposition Leader of the Upper House and Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, accompanied by MLC Mick Veitch, Shadow Minister for Lands and Rural Affairs, said to delegates that ”the NSW Coalition Government committed in 2011 to spend over $160m on the current Resources for Regions program but spent just $105m. In 2015, the State Government announced it would continue the program in similar amounts over the next four years, yet there have been only two rounds of the expected four and the allocations have been reduced”

He also said that “a Daley Labor Government will end asset sales as the source of investment in mining communities, in lieu of royalties, they will ensure that mining communities have a greater say in the distribution of funds, remove the need for a co contribution by Councils of 50 per cent, give mining communities greater certainty and confidence of the amounts distributed, the distribution of funds to be in a planned evidence based manner rather than an ad hoc pork barrelling exercise that the Resources for Regions program has now become”.

 He said “In government, to do this, we will develop a new model for Resources for Regions, linked to a proportion of mining royalties to be invested in mining affected communities, this to be aimed at least the same level of funding as was committed to be invested under the present program by the Coalition Government. This hasn’t been done, they have let the regional communities down”.

Cr Shinton from the Association said “As there is likely to be a change of government, this will be a victory for the hard working delegates at MERC, who have been lobbying Ministers and senior government officials for many years, on behalf of the concerned residents and member Councils they represent, in order to rectify the issues with regional infrastructure funding”.

Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

Clr Hasler (MERC delegate to RAF) has reported with the election on 23rd March 2019, it is not likely that a further meeting will be held until several months after the elections. The government is now in caretaker mode.

Next Meetings of Association for 2019

The next Executive Committee meeting will be on 9th May 2019 at Forbes, the Ordinary General Meeting next day on 10th February 2019, both meetings starting at 9am. The Forbes Shire Council Events Coordinator has been in touch with the Executive Officer aiming to have a tour of the Central West Livestock Exchange, a Wind Farm and a Solar farm at this stage in the afternoon of 9th May 2019 from 1pm for early arrivals with a network dinner that evening.

The August meeting is to be held in Sydney at Club York, Bass rooms on 8/9th August 2019 (same as February meeting) and Mid Coast Council have now confirmed they will host the November meetings in Gloucester with 7/8th November 2019 for Gloucester. Dates will be confirmed by the Executive in due course, but by sticking with the pattern of second Thursday/Friday in the aforementioned months is what we are working on for your diaries.

Membership Campaign

Upper Lachlan have agreed to join MERC effective from 1st July 2019, with Mayor John Stafford and General Manager John Bell to be the delegates. This gives MERC 22 members. Awaiting an approval to present to Country Mayors Association in May 2019

Coonamble Shire Council has expressed an interest in being part of the Association and after discussions with the Mayor, who is very keen, a proposal has been forwarded for the Council to consider membership in view of their renewable energy potential and the Coal Seam Gas issues

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.

Research Fellowship Update

On 8th February 2019 at the Ordinary General Meeting, Dr Juan Castilla Rho, University of Wollongong, Research Fellow Participatory Modelling, briefed delegates on the participatory modelling research proposal with the three options, outputs and outcomes, as follows:

Option One – Research Agreement (4 year project) MERC & UoW – $35K pa each (cash and in kind), 1 Pilot case study (to be selected – mining, CSG, water resource, wind, etc.) and 1 PhD student, supervised by Dr Castilla and Prof Perez;

 

Option Two – OEH Environmental Research Grant (4 year project) MERC & UoW cost of $50K – $300K, to be split 50:50 depending on the grant quantum, with the involvement of 2 PhD students for 2 case studies, same supervision;

 

Option Three – ARC Linkage Project (2-5 year project) MERC & UoW – $50K – $300K (35/50% success rate), 3 Pilot studies, 3 PhD students, same supervision, plus Prof Moira Zellner, University of Illinois of Chicago, world leader in participatory steering of complex systems being involved in the workshops.

 

The outputs will be participatory modelling workshops; part of a management flight simulator; in journal papers; presentation at International conferences; published in news and media outlets. The outcomes are expected to be the piloting of participatory modelling social licence pathways; facilitate the assessment of mining and energy proposals; project has the potential to be included in guidelines, best practice and ultimately planning regulation. Below is a link to download the presentation:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FD0KEnGA08GNFx4s1IwVfVHLeweWTDYJ/view?usp=sharing

Delegates will need to determine if MERC is to proceed with the project or not, at the 10th May meeting in Forbes by having a discussion with your Councils, consideration of the benefits and funding options. Meanwhile, possible grant sources are being canvassed to cover the MERC  co contribution funds.

Project Working Party

At the Ordinary General meeting, delegates noted the Skills Matrix and Consultants Register that were developed by the Project Working party and circulated . Delegates also spent  considerable time on the amended Coal Seam Gas Policy, which will be typed without tracking and presented to delegates to adopt on 10th May 2019, in the new format. The project working party is Chaired by Jason Linnane, General Manager, Singleton Council and consists of planning staff from members – Ron Zwicker (Wollongong CC), David Henry (Wollondilly SC), Heather Nicholls (Cabonne SC) and Andrew Johns (Gunnedah SC). Ron in particular did a lot of the major review work and is to be congratulated for this. If your Council hasn’t responded to the Skills matrix survey there is still time, as the matrix can be regularly updated as Cessnock has done recently, since the list was distributed.

Potential Speakers for next meeting in Forbes 10th May 2019

The Executive Officer has been chasing the following speakers for future meetings:

  • David Kitto, Executive Director of DPE Resource Assessments & Business systems team has been invited to attend in lieu his inability to attend the wind farming workshop and meeting next day at Crookwell in November last year.
  • Dr Alex King, Executive Director, Resources Policy, Planning & Programs, Division of Resources & Geoscience, DPE has been invited to address delegates on engagement with non-industry stakeholders, the state and future of mining in NSW and his Division engaging more with local government going forward. Which is all very timely given our discussons with University of Wollongong on a better model of consulting (He has been contacted regarding being involved in the participatory modelling exercise perhaps DPE may be interested in being apart of this project?).
  • Nathan Laird, Director Legislative Updates, Policy and Strategy, DPE has been invited to address delegates on the development of Community Participation Plans (CPP’s). You can see further details in related matters of interest from his email to all councils in NSW on CPP’s.
  • Tony Corbett, Trade & Business Development Manager, Port of Newcastle has been suggested by life member Glenn Wilcox who suggested he be invited to provide an update on what is happening with coal & containers.

Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

 “Community Participation Plans” Nathan Laird, Director Legislative Updates, DPE on 26th February 2019, emailed this: The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 has been updated to make community participation central to the planning system. Supporting this objective, is a new measure requiring all public authorities that have planning functions under the EP&A Act, including councils, to develop a community participation plan (CPP). CPPs must be finalised and published on the ePlanning portal by 1 December 2019. The link to the FAQs is here.  If you have any further questions about the Departments CPP, the CPP implementation program and questions in the FAQ document please contact the Legislative Updates team at legislativeupdates@planning.nsw.gov.au

 “Latest climate policy fails to provide clean energy investment confidence” Clean Energy Council sent this out on Monday 25 February 2019:

The Climate Solutions Package announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison today will do little to reduce emissions across the energy sector or provide the policy certainty needed to continue momentum in clean energy investment, the Clean Energy Council said today.
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said today’s announcement is no substitute for strong energy policy. “Any policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which ignores the need to transition our emissions-intensive energy sector – the largest source of emissions in the Australian economy – to clean energy, is not taking the matter seriously. It also misses a golden opportunity to incentivise further private investment, further lower energy prices and create jobs,” Mr Thornton said. “This new fund will not apply to the energy generation sector. This means that the momentum created by $20 billion of private investment in large-scale renewable energy being built behind the Renewable Energy Target is now at risk. All the incredible expertise and capacity the industry has built could be lost without policy certainty beyond 2020.

“As the Clean Energy Council outlined recently in a series of policy recommendations for the upcoming Federal Election, Australia is in desperate need of a long-term energy policy that includes a target for reducing emissions across the electricity sector. “Along with many other organisations such as the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group, the Clean Energy Council backed the government’s efforts to deliver cheap, clean and reliable energy through its National Energy Guarantee. While climate and energy policy remain a difficult political issue, the lack of any genuine policy is unsustainable for the energy sector,” he said.  Mr Thornton said the funding for a second Bass Strait interconnector to provide a stronger link between the mainland and Tasmania’s hydro generation, pumped hydro storage and other renewable resources will help to unlock Tasmania’s enormous renewables potential and is very welcome.

“Clean Energy industry pumped about potential for hydro to unlock low cost renewables Wednesday 27th February 2019.  The clean energy industry is pumped about a clean energy future that features one of the country’s most well-established technologies, the Clean Energy Council said in relation to funding announcements this week for the Snowy 2.0 expansion and Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation project. Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said “while innovation and economies of scale continued to make new clean energy technologies cheaper, hydro power’s effectiveness and long heritage makes it a perfect partner to complement wind and solar in Australia. These pumped hydro projects are tailor-made to work in concert with renewables, but the business case collapses if the government uses taxpayer funds for new coal-fired power plants. A mix of clean energy technologies can now do everything new coal can do – but cheaper, cleaner and more reliably,” Mr Thornton said.

 “Studies from our most credible organisations have shown that our power system can run on 50 per cent renewables with minimal investment in additional energy storage. The great news about the Snowy 2.0 expansion and the Battery of the Nation is that they pave the way for much higher levels of renewable energy in Australia. Both Snowy Hydro and Hydro Tasmania have made huge contributions to Australia’s energy system over many decades, and it is fantastic to see them taking on a renewed role in powering our energy future.
“It is important however that government intervention and funding of investments is managed carefully and transparently to ensure the impact on market dynamics and private investment flow” he said. “The Federal Government has pledged $1.38 billion in funding and a green light for the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro expansion this week, along with $56 million for the Marinus Link project which would provide a second cable across Bass Strait to make Tasmania’s renewable energy resources more available for the mainland. The Federal Government says it will consider underwriting the Battery of the Nation project, while Tasmania’s Hodgman Government will make $30 million available to Hydro Tasmania to refine the number of potential sites from 14 down to three.

Mr Thornton said while federal funding for Marinus Link – matched by federal Labor – would help to make the Battery of the Nation project viable, questions remain about power transmission for the Snowy expansion. “At the moment we have a very promising project which will need substantial new investment in poles and wires to make its electricity available to the grid when it is most needed. It is still not clear who will pay for that,” he said.
“The clean energy industry believes it is time for state government like New South Wales and Victoria to step up and help with connecting Snowy 2.0, to ensure project can proceed.”

 “Real policy support needed to give a lift to huge potential of clean hydrogen” The Clean Energy Council also sent this media release out on 1st March 2019.

While the Federal Government’s support for hydrogen to date is welcome, tangible policy initiatives and an extension to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), are needed to unlock a huge potential export earner for our economy, the Clean Energy Council said today. Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton emphasised the potential for clean hydrogen as a way to effectively export the renewable energy produced by Australia’s world-class sun, wind, water and bioenergy resources, when he said:

“Clean hydrogen is an exciting opportunity that uses technology developed by scientists at CSIRO to make the gas export-ready. There is a large international market for hydrogen emerging, particularly in Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan, which is committed to working towards a hydrogen-based economy,” Mr Thornton said.
“The government’s interest and support for this industry of the future is obviously welcome, but it needs to be accompanied by serious policy and strategy development to realise a massive new opportunity. “The Clean Energy Council believes clean hydrogen should be developed as part of a national clean energy export strategy, which is one of the recommendations of our 2019 Federal Election recommendations.

The strategy should also assess measures such as undersea cables to supply electricity to international markets in south-east Asia. “ARENA has played an incredibly important role in helping to develop early-stage clean energy technology. While the agency is expected to spend almost all of its available funding in the next 12 months and wind up in 2022, its job is only half done. “If the Federal Government is serious about developing Australia’s hydrogen potential, it also needs to extend the funding of ARENA to allow it to leverage expertise that will help to reduce the cost of producing hydrogen in Australia and develop a promising new export earner for the future “ he said. Refer www.cleanergycouncil.org.au media releases.

 “Local Narrabri gas to underpin new manufacturing jobs in northwest NSW “ Santos media release 27th February 2019.  Santos and Perdaman have today announced a non-binding agreement for the supply of 14.5PJ of natural gas per annum over 20 years, subject to a final investment decision for the Narrabri Gas Project. The gas would be supplied to a proposed new ammonium nitrate plant near Narrabri to produce fertiliser for agribusiness, a key sector of the NSW economy. The plant would be developed in parallel with the Narrabri Gas Project to use appraisal and early development gas.

Hybrid power, a combination of gas-fired power generation integrated with renewable power generation will also be assessed to provide electricity to both the Narrabri Gas Project and the ammonium nitrate plant. The plant is expected to support 700 jobs during construction and another 100 direct and 100 indirect ongoing jobs during operations. This is in addition to the hundreds of jobs that will be supported by the Narrabri Gas Project during both construction and operations. These two projects will be a boost for small businesses and the communities in and around Narrabri.

Santos Managing Director and CEO Kevin Gallagher said Santos has committed to develop the Narrabri Gas Project solely for the east coast domestic gas market. “Narrabri gas will be very competitively-priced gas. Santos will bring to Narrabri our experience in Queensland where we have reduced connected well costs by a massive 84 per cent since 2015. Keeping the cost of supply down is a very good way to keep gas prices down,” Mr Gallagher said. “The Narrabri Gas Project could produce enough gas to supply up to half NSW’s needs. “It’s also very important to us that the environment and water resources are protected, and NSW has very strong environmental regulation to ensure Narrabri can be developed safely and sustainability The Narrabri Gas Project is currently being assessed by the NSW Department of Planning ahead of a decision by the Independent Planning Commission”.

“We want the process to be comprehensive and robust, so the community can be confident in the outcome. There is no place for politics in the independent planning process,” Mr Gallagher said. “Manufacturing customers like Perdaman recognise the importance of locating new plants close to new natural gas supply sources and are hopeful the Narrabri Gas Project will proceed to a final investment decision as soon as possible”.

Energy Saver NSW – Incentives for Small Business”, 28th February 2019

Delegates are you aware of the incentives available to small business, to reduce energy use and save on power bills, you may wish to put this on your websites and make the local business communities or Chamber of Commerce aware of them if they are not already. For more information please go to:

https://energysaver.nsw.gov.au/business/discounts-and-incentives

Contacts

Clr Peter Shinton (Chair) peter.shinton@warrumbungle.nsw.gov.au 0268492000

or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636, info@mininrelatedcouncils.asn.au.

MERC Newsletter – January 2019

Introduction

Delegates, here is the January 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 Joint Voluntary Planning Agreement Working Party (VPAWP)

Current position is that the DPE have confirmed that Stephen Free (Senior Counsel) will chair the Steering Committee, which will consist of MERC VPA working party (Cr Moore, Cr Hasler, Steve Loane & Executive Officer), DPE and NSW Minerals Council (Steve Galilee and Mark Jacobs). The the first meeting is to be held in Sydney on 15th February 2019 to address the outstanding issues with the quantum options for a VPA, etc to finalise this in 2019

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

The last meeting for RIAP was held on 24th January 2019 where 38 projects were assessed initially for consideration with $190m value of projects, to allocate $50m against the new criteria. There were 19 projects shortlisted and 8 deemed not eligible as they did not reach the Benefits Cost Ratio of greater than 1 set by Treasury, despite the projects being otherwise worthy of funding. The panel ratified this list in accordance with the Guidelines for the Resources for Regions program as the projects met the criteria for affordability, strategic and deliverability for referral to the Premier and Cabinet to approve.

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 March 2019, it is not likely that a further meeting will be held until after the elections 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 same venue starting at 9am. Unfortunately a room big enough to accommodate 35 delegates and speakers in a U shape and top table could not be allocated at Parliament House for this meeting.

The May meeting is to be held in Forbes, then in Sydney in August and Mid Coast Council have now confirmed they will host the November meetings in Gloucester, all dates are yet to be confirmed by the Executive Committee and host Councils.

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

Membership Campaign

Upper Lachlan have agreed to join MERC effective from 1st July 2019, with Mayor John Stafford and General Manager John Bell to be the delegates. This gives MERC 22 members.

The Executive Officer has approached Country Mayors Association to present to them in March, unfortunately they have invited politicians to address them and have no time on their agenda to do this. The CMA to provide an email but is overseas at the moment. The Executive Officer has sent the current proposal pro forma to delegates to review and provide input and suggestions to the Executive Officer on the content, to incise further interest. Membership discussions have also re commenced with the Mayor of Muswellbrook by members of the MERC Executive.

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.

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. Consequently, Juan will be presenting to delegates on 8th February the changes to what he originally proposed in order to improve funding chances with an international connection with University of Illinois at Chicago. Very exciting times ahead!

Project Working Party

The project working party Chaired by Jason Linnane, General Manager, Singleton Council, consisting of planning staff form members – Ron Zwicker (Wollongong CC), David Henry (Wollondilly SC), Heather Nicholls (Cabonne SC) and Andrew Johns (Gunnedah SC) reviewed the MERC CSG Policy in relation to the NSW Gas Plan; they have shortlisted the existing panel of consultants; prepared a Skills Matrix of what member Councils  have for renewable energy, mining and other specialised skill sets that could be accessed by members to assist with resource sharing, etc. The Coal Seam Gas policy will be presented to delegates at the February 8th 2019 meeting and the skills matrix and panel of consultants will be distributed to dlegates in due course.They have done an excellent job for delegates.

Speakers on 8th February 2019

Delegates requested that leaders of the respective major political parties be invited to the Sydney meeting in February 2019 and given the elections due in NSW in March, it has been an exercise to get them to attend or even respond to address the topic to replace the current program of “Resources for Regions” with a “Royalties for Regions” program where royalties as a set percentage are returned to the LGA’s that they were gleaned from and have been impacted by mining and energy activities to rectify infrastructure shortfalls in regional areas.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have and indicated they can’t attend to speak as Robert Borsak and Robert Brown and Phil Donato all had prior commitments but support this approach as a policy platform and will provide that to MERC in writing. Labor will be attending with the Shadow Ministers for Rural Affairs (Mick Veitch, MLC) and Leader of the Legislative Assembly and Shadow Minister for Resources, Industry, Energy and Industrial Relations (Adam Searle) talking about the topic as an election platform.

Other speakers will be David Mooney DPE on Renewables and the Large Scale Solar Guidleines fro State Sognificant Developments and Stephen Barry Director Policy DPE providing an update on Planning Policy changes, etc. plus Dr Juan Castilla – Rho, University of Wollongong talking about the Participatory Modelling project mentioned earlier in this newsletter.

Despite the failure to attract all leaders or their substitutes from the political parties to talk about “Royalties for Regions” as an election platform, these presentations should be informative & of great interest to delegates. Campaigning period is hard for them to meet us.

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

“Have your say on Tahmoor South Coal proposal” – Cr Michael Banasik has forwarded this article from the Wollondilly Advertiser, dated the 24th January 2019:-

“Works at SIMEC Mining’s Tahmoor South Coal Project could continue until 2035 if a proposal to extend the underground mining area is approved. An Environment Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed extension went on public exhibition at the Department of Planning website this week and residents have until March 5th to have their say on the proposal. The current mine was scheduled for closure in 2022, but the proposed extension would see the employment of almost 400 people continue for a further 13 years.

SIMEC’s chief operating officer Matt Reed said the current mine space had almost run its course and there was a great need to expand. “The Tahmoor operations have limited coal resource remaining in the current approved mining areas,” he said. “The Tahmoor South Project will see mining operations move to the southern part of existing leases. With the Tahmoor mine providing the high-quality coking coal required to make steel, we are confident that we have a business model to deliver strong results for our Australian operations.”

The Department of Planning’s resource assessments director Howard Reed said it was important the community read through the EIS and shared their thoughts. “Community feedback is vital and will be taken into consideration when we assess this project,” he said.

“The Minister for Planning has requested the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) hold a public hearing when the EIS exhibition has ended, to provide further opportunity for community input early in the assessment process, and the Department will also engage an independent groundwater expert.” The EIS highlighted several important issues that the proposed extended mining works would encounter. These included impacts to Thirlmere Lakes, Aboriginal heritage sites, traffic and the economy, among others.

The statement determined the extended works – which would see four million tonnes of coking and thermal coal transported per year – would have “negligible groundwater and surface water impacts on the Thirlmere Lakes that would be comparable to levels of natural variability and would be imperceptible in many circumstances”.

Research found 40 Aboriginal sites which could fall within subsidence areas. The statement said “mitigation and management for potential impacts to cultural heritage includes the preparation and implementation of a Heritage Management Plan [and] should monitoring detect the early development of potentially severe differential movements at these archaeological sites during the extraction of the early longwalls, adaptive management would be applied”. An increase in “construction and operational traffic is anticipated as a result of the proposed development”, but the impact is “considered minor”. The statement said SIMEC would work closely with Roads and Maritime Services and Wollondilly Council to minimise traffic impacts.

The EIS predicts the proposal would provide a net benefit of about $699.5 million throughout its life, “of which up to $132 million would flow through to the Wollondilly region. Community benefits would be generated primarily through employment which would peak at 422 full time equivalent employees in the operational stages following development and construction phase of the proposed development,” it read. “The proposed development is also expected to generate increased economic activity and employment within the wider NSW community, through wage spending and demand for downstream services and suppliers.”

The proposed mine extension would continue to be accessed via the existing surface facilities, with some infrastructure upgrades planned. SIMEC’s Matt Reed said the mine operators would continue their success within the community. “Tahmoor Mine has established its environmental credentials over many years and will continue to work with the community to maintain its high standards of performance,” he said. “A number of mine plan changes have been made in recent months to ensure we continue to meet this objective. “I am looking forward to hearing the community’s views on our plans, along with any opportunities to improve what we do.”

If there are more than 25 public objections received during public exhibition period, the planning department’s recommendation, including any conditions, will be referred to the IPC for a final decision. Visit majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au to read the report.

 “Monetary Benefit Orders” An extract from the LGNSW Newsletter, 24th January 2019

In a first for environmental regulators in Australia, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has introduced a framework to strip offenders of the financial advantage gained from breaking environmental laws. The framework, which can be used by councils, helps regulators determine the benefits offenders gain through environmental crime and pursue recovery by asking the court to impose monetary benefit orders as part of sentencing packages.

A protocol for calculating monetary benefits and further information is available on the EPA website. Councils instituting criminal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court can apply for Monetary Benefit Orders, but they do not apply in local courts. The Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators network (AELERT) has developed a monetary benefits toolkit in partnership with the EPA. Network members can access these additional resources. Email AELERT to join. For more information or to join the email list for updates on MBOs email the EPA

“Large Scale Solar Energy Guidelines for State Significant Developments”  The DPE has released the following document for the information of stakeholders.

“ARENA Studies Geothermal Homes” from www.industrialcareers.com.au, 29 JANUARY 2019

 

“ARENA wants to study the benefits of geothermal energy in the residential sector and greenfield estates. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $500,000 in funding to Climate-KIC Australia for a three-year longitudinal study of geothermal technology. It is part of a $1.7 million project that will include a commercial-scale demonstration of renewable ground-source heat pumps being deployed in the Fairwater residential community in Blacktown, Western Sydney.

Geothermal heat pump systems will supply heating and cooling to each of the over 800 new dwellings in the Fairwater precinct. The project aims to use existing buildings to evaluate performance of energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project would demonstrate the potential of using geothermal energy to power households. “Ground sourced thermal energy being installed in new housing estates could reduce energy consumption and cost as well as benefiting the network by lowering peak demand and the associated need to invest in expensive infrastructure,” Mr Miller said. “If successful, this study could help demonstrate the value of geothermal energy to greenfield developers, potentially seeing further housing developments implement this renewable technology,” he said.

Climate-KIC will lead the project team comprising University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Curtin University, Watt Watchers and the Green Building Council of Australia, with $180,000 each of funding as well as in-kind support over three years from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and the developer of Fairwater, Frasers Property Australia. If successful, the project will pave the way by establishing a business case for industry-wide adoption of ground-source heat pumps within local, renewable and efficient energy systems.

‘”Robot Rail Complete” From www.industrialcareers.com.au 7th January 2019:

Rio Tinto says it has completed the roll out of its autonomous freight train system in iron ore operations in Western Australia. Rio’s Auto Haul program cost around $1.2 billion and includes fully or semi-autonomous drills, trains and even smaller vehicles such as light trucks.

The latest addition is Scania’s autonomous XT tipper truck system at Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt operation in Western Australia. Rio Tinto Iron Ore managing director for rail, port and core services Ivan Vella says Auto Haul has shown good early results in improving productivity and reducing bottlenecks. “Over the coming months we will continue to refine our autonomous operations to ensure we are able to maximise value,” he said “We continue to work closely with drivers during this period and do not expect to make any redundancies in 2019 as a result of the deployment of Auto Haul.”

‘Self – Driving Tests Approved” 24th January 2019 from www.industrialcareers.com.au

Victoria has approved driverless car trials on rural roads. With road fatalities five times higher on country roads than in the city, the state will investigate whether non-human drivers are better at handling dangerous conditions.

Industrial giant Bosch has received a $2.3 million state government grant for its automated vehicle technology, which will be tested on high-speed rural roads later this year. Bosch obtained the state’s first permit, but other successful applicants should be announced soon. The driverless vehicles will be exposed to a range of conditions, weather and traffic.

“The tragic fact is that you’re five times as likely to be killed on a rural road, than in the city. That’s why we’re rolling out a record roads investment in rural Victoria, and this is another way we can improve safety and save lives,” government MP Jacinta Allan said.

Bosch Australia president Gavin Smith said the technology will improve safety and reduce trauma on rural roads.

The funding comes from the $9 million Connected and Automated Vehicle Trial Grants Program, part of the Victorian Government’s $1.4 billion Towards Zero Action Plan.

In late 2017, VicRoads called for expressions of interest from companies, industry bodies and other transport technology organisations to apply for funding to spur the development of these emerging technologies, which will lead to reduced deaths and serious injuries.

“The trials will support Victoria’s readiness for automated vehicle technologies and the knowledge gained will provide a better understanding of the infrastructure required to get these vehicles on the road, maximising their safety benefits,” the government said in a statement.

Australian Energy Generation 2018 Charts – Handy Facts & Figures

The following Charts show the spread of energy sources in Australia in comparison from 2017 to 2018 outlining where the changes are in the national energy market (Provided by Warwick Giblin, Oz Environmental Pty Ltd.

Private Power Costs Counted”, 21 January 2019 from www.industrialcareers.com.au

New research suggests the privatised electricity sector costs Australian households over $200 per year. “Privatisation of the electricity industry has resulted in enormous increases in wasteful spending, including high-pressure sales tactics, excessive numbers of managers, and dizzying advertising and so-called ‘chase’ costs,” says David Richardson, Senior Research Fellow at The Australia Institute.

“The annual cost of these economically wasteful activities adds up to $2 billion per year. These costs are passed on to customers in their electricity bill, leaving households over $200 worse off a year. He said the financial sector has also reaped huge rewards from power privatisation.

“In fact, the electricity industry now spends more on finance and banking costs than it does on the actual fossil fuels to power its electricity generators,” Mr Richardson said.

The full report is accessible in PDF form, here. Its key findings include:

  • Real output per employee in the electricity sector has fallen by 37 per cent between 2000 and 2018, due to the excessive allocation of ultimately unproductive labour to advertising, sales, contract administration and other activities associated with privatisation
  • Productivity growth has been worse than for any other industry in Australia, contrary to the assumption that privatisation enhances efficiency
  • The number of sales staff employed by electricity companies has grown almost 400 per cent since the industry began to be privatised in the mid-1990s and the number of managers has grown over 200 per cent
  • Over the same period, the number of electrical tradespeople and other workers involved in actual production has grown just 21 per cent
  • Electricity sector now spends more on finance and banking costs than the actual fossil fuels that power electricity generation.

 

Contacts: Clr Peter Shinton (Chair) peter.shinton@warrumbungle.nsw.gov.au 0268492000 or

Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636, info@mininrelatedcouncils.asn.au.

MERC Newsletter – Dec 2018

Introduction

Delegates, here is the December 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.

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

The working party (Cr Sue Moore, Cr Owen Hasler, Steve Loane and Greg Lamont) and MERC Chair Cr Peter Shinton, 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 was to be 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 the working party hoped a meeting would be held before the end of 2018 (depending on Chair) to establish protocols, etc. However now the first meeting is to be held in Sydney on 15th February 2019 to fit in with the other parties.

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 March 2019, it is not likely that a further meeting will be held until after the elections 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, now confirmed.

The May meeting is to be held in Forbes who are working on dates, then 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 on for your diaries as per the “Claim the Dates” email last week.

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. Fantastically, Upper Lachlan have agreed to join MERC, thanks to the good work done by the delegates in talking to the Upper Lachlan Councillors during the recent meetings there. This gives MERC 22 members. 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 sent 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 also re commenced with the Mayor of Muswellbrook by members of the MERC Executive..

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.

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 8th 2019 meeting..

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

 “Fly In Fly Out workers distress studied” Industrial Careers reports on 11th December 2018 the following: “A third of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) resource workers experience high levels of psychological distress, a survey has found. Experts at Curtin University have studied the mental health and wellbeing of FIFO workers, making 18 recommendations for workers suffering from mental health issues.

The researchers surveyed 3,000 FIFO workers, 400 partners and 300 former FIFO workers, and specifically tracked the experiences of 200 FIFO workers during their work rosters. It found FIFO workers were “clearly at risk” of mental health issues. A total of 33 per cent experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress, compared to just 17 per cent among non-FIFO workers.

The report calls for shorter work rosters, permanent rooms at housing camps, efforts to reduce the stigma of mental health, support programs, training for leaders and providing reliable communications for workers to talk to their loved ones.

The WA Government says the study shows that if the sector does not improve its practices, it could be forced to make a currently voluntary code of conduct mandatory. WA Health Minister Roger Cook said legislation is still possible. “If in the community’s mind they aren’t taking the necessary actions to create safe workplaces, mentally safe workplaces for their workers, well then it will be the requirement for the Government to legislate,” he said.

For further details go to www.industrialcareers.com.au

“Climate shifts counted” The Industrial Careers reported on 4th December 2018 the following:

“New research suggests workers will have to start before dawn to beat the heat of climate change at the end of the century.

The new study indicates that if society tries to avoid the economic impacts of climate change on outdoor labour by shifting working hours, outdoor workers in many regions will need to start working well before dawn to avoid the effect of excessive heat stress.

Outdoor workers are exposed to excessive heat stress, particularly in hot seasons, a trend that is expected to increase as a result of climate change.

This will reduce the capability of physical labour and eventually cause economic loss.

Shifting working time earlier in the morning, when it is cooler than during midday, can be an effective way to reduce the effect of heat stress. However, the plausibility and efficacy of such an intervention has not been quantitatively assessed on a global scale.

A research team led by Jun’ya Takakura, a researcher at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan, investigated whether shifting work times can offset the economic impacts of labour capacity reduction due to climate change.

The researchers used a new method to estimate the heat exposure index, and calculated the required amount of time shift necessary to keep the current level of labour capacity in the future.

The results showed that although a time shift was effective to reduce the effect of heat stress, the required amount of change in working times was not realistic.

The expected start time for outdoor workers would be well before dawn unless stringent climate-change mitigation was achieved.

Under the highest greenhouse-gas emission scenario, the required shift globally was 5.7 (4.0–6.1) hours on average by the end of this century.

The current social system would not allow such a drastic working time shift to come into practice, according to the study’s authors. It is also known that shifting working time can cause other harmful effects such as circadian rhythm disorders.

The research team also conducted an economic simulation, and found that residual damage due to labour capacity reduction would be 1.6 per cent of global total GDP if the time shift is limited to a realistic range of up to three hours.” Refer www.industrialcareers.com.au for further details.

“Questions about whether much has changed after inquiries into mining processes“- Joanne McCarthy writes in the Newcastle Herald 20th November 2018 “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.”

Key snippets from Kaldas Review of Planning SystemWarwick Giblin, Oz Environmental has sent these comments in to share with delegates (yellow emphasis is Warwick’s on Kaldas comments). A copy of the full report is on the DPE site www.planning.nsw.gov.au.

Some of the Recommendations:

  1. That the DPE consider undertaking an audit of all infrastructure contributions and spending of same in NSW to enable evidence-based decision-making on the collection and monitoring of those contributions.
  2. That the DPE update the Practice Note for Voluntary Planning Agreements to ensure consistency and transparency. To ensure Councils consider the Practice Note when negotiating or preparing a Voluntary Planning Agreement, the Minister consider issuing a Ministerial Direction requiring Councils to have regard to the Practice Note.
  3. The updated Voluntary Planning Agreement framework should also include requirements for reporting and auditing where the funds are being allocated. This will further ensure transparency, compliance and accountability.
  4. The Chair of the Independent Planning Commission continue to liaise with the Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment to enshrine and clarify the independence of the Commission and its staff. The Secretary and the Chair should consider a contemporary Memorandum of Understanding to achieve that objective.
  5. The DPE establish an Ethics Unit, similar to the United Nations Ethics Divisions, which reports directly to the Secretary of the Department.
  6. While noting that some interagency forums exist, that the DPE give consideration to the establishment of a regular quarterly forum for CEOs as a basis for strategic issues and policy discussions of planning related issues.

Commentary in the Document Report:

  1. I note that The Minister for Local Government has publicly released the soon to be prescribed 2018 Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW.58 Once prescribed, the new code and associated procedures will apply to more than 45,000 staff and nearly 1,300 Councillors at 128 local councils across NSW, to provide a robust framework for ethics, accountability and transparency in NSW. The new Model Code of Conduct introduces strict new requirements including:
  • Banning Councillors from accepting gifts valued at more than $50;
  • Mandatory reporting of all gifts regardless of value in the Council gift register;
  • Councillors with a pecuniary interest cannot access Council information about the matter;
  • Suspensions for pecuniary interest breaches will count towards the “three strikes and you’re out” scheme introduced in 2015 where Councillors face automatic disqualification when they are suspended three times for misconduct;
  • Councillors must declare new interests more regularly in official returns of interest lodged with their council;
  • Councillors must declare in official returns of interest if they are a property developer;
  • New standards relating to discrimination and harassment, bullying, work health and safety, behavior at meetings, use of social media, access to information and maintenance of Council records.
  1. I am advised that a new Regulation will shortly give effect to the updated code. After the new code and procedures are prescribed, councils across NSW will have six months to adopt a Code of Conduct and associated procedures that meet the new requirements.

Independent Planning Commission – secretariat support

  1. The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) of NSW was established as a standalone, independent agency on 1 March 2018.
  2. The IPC Secretariat provides professional and technical support to the Commission and its members. While the IPC is separate from the Department, the secretariat staff are in fact Department of Planning and Environment employees. This has been raised as an issue that impacts on the independence, both real and perceived, of the IPC.
  3. Staff employed by the IPC are employed by the Department and therefore, at some stage, may be expected to return to their home agency. This may create issues for staff, for example, in situations where the Commission is critical of the Department. Part of the role of professional staff at the IPC is to critically review the recommendations and reports prepared by the Department of Planning and Environment. This can put staff at the IPC in a difficult position, as they may not feel completely comfortable in providing frank and fearless advice to a Department which they may not feel they are completely independent from.
  4. 41. Stakeholders noted that the IPC does not have its own resources and instead relies heavily on the Department to facilitate numerous key functions, potentially impacting their independence. Although IPC can engage its own experts, stakeholders commented that ‘they rarely do so, and they rely on the Department for summary reports’. Some stakeholders concluded that the community considers the IPC to be somewhat dependent on the Department, creating a culture that facilitates real or perceived conflicts of interest.
  5. I am of the view that it is critical to ensure the independence of the IPC, both real and perceived. For this reason, I have recommended that the Chair of the IPC liaise with the Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment to clarify the independence of the Commission and its staff. The Secretary and the Chair should consider entering into a contemporary Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to achieve that objective.

Modification of consents

  1. After a development application has been granted, the consent authority may consider a modification to the original development approval.85 minor error, mis-description or miscalculation,”Some stakeholders suggested that all minor modifications, such as those involving “86 or with minimal environmental impact,87 should be considered by Council (or the equivalent consent authority). They suggest that more complex modifications which significantly differ from the original application should be considered by the IHAP.  
  2. To approve a modification to a DA, the legislation requires that the consent authority (or the Court on appeal) must be satisfied that the development to which the consent as modified relates is substantially the same development as the development for which consent was originally granted and before that consent as originally granted was modified (if at all).88  
  3. Many of the stakeholders I met with raised the issue of modifications as a corruption risk. Conversely, others raised the issue of obtaining modifications as being too difficult. Some suggested there should be a “presumption against approval if significant modifications are applied for.”

 Ethics Unit

  1. I can see the benefit of a similar structure within the NSW planning system. Unlike the role of the Manager, Ethics and Integrity, the Ethics Unit would not take or investigate specific complaints against the conduct of Department staff. Rather, the unit’s aim would be to provide pre-emptive advice on corruption risks within the system. The unit could also consider issues of perceived or actual conflicts of interest and provide advice or recommendations on whether a conflict exists and give advice to mitigate or manage conflicts. The unit would systematically and regularly inspect codes of practice and existing frameworks to ensure compliance. It would also provide an opportunity to ensure the Department is aligned with the NSW Public Service Ethical Framework which suggests that “Agencies need to assess their current systems, policies, work practices, procedures and employee behaviours to ensure they align with the objective, values and principles of the Ethical Framework”.91 
  2. I have considered whether this unit should be located within the Department, or with an external body. My experience with the UN, has illustrated that an Ethics Division can form a strong educative role and provide invaluable advice and guidance to those involved in the system. However, it is also important that there the unit has an appropriate level of independence. I note that under sections 25 and 30 of the Government Sector Employment Act 2013, Department Secretaries and Agency Heads are appropriately responsible for the general conduct and management of their Department or Agency in accordance with the core values of the Ethical Framework. I am therefore of the view that it is appropriate for the Ethics Unit to be established within the Office of the Secretary within the Department of Planning and Environment, reporting directly to the Secretary. To ensure Department cooperation with the unit, it is recommended that the unit be led by an appropriately senior person, for example, at the Executive Director level. It would be, in essence, an evolution of the recent initiative establishing the position of Manager of Ethics.

Planning System Cooperation

  1. My Terms of Reference require me to “consider the interactions between the NSW planning system’s governance and agencies, other government agencies, and other levels of government”. It has become clear from my consultation with several stakeholders and industry groups that engagement is lacking between the DPE and other critical departments. There does not appear to be a regular systematic forum for agencies to meet and share ideas and learnings. While noting that some interagency forums exist, I am of the view that there could be regular quarterly forums between senior representatives from the Department and related government agencies at both a state and local level.
  2. Such regular engagement between agencies would assist in streamlining the concurrence approvals, as mentioned in the previous chapter, as well as contributing significantly in knowledge sharing and cooperation between all sectors of the NSW planning System.

Creating a positive planning culture

  1. I note there has been a significant effort led by the Secretary in relation to enhancing the culture and accessibility of the Department, and I recommend that these efforts are continued and supported.  
  2. A key focus of the proposed 2013 reforms was to make the planning system in NSW “simpler, more certain, more strategic and performance based, working within a positive planning culture. Decision making under the new system will be transparent and accessible, with people, businesses and organisations having the choice to be fully engaged in the decisions  

The White Paper made several recommendations to improve the culture with the planning system, including “monitoring and reporting on the actions for culture change and lessons learnt on an annual basis, to provide a report card on the health of the culture of the NSW planning system”. I consider this to be an excellent idea. I am of the view it could be a function undertaken by the new Ethics Unit that I have recommended above, if established”.

 We wish you all a Happy & Prosperous New Year to you from the Executive of MERC.

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

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

 

 

MERC Newsletter – October 2018

Introduction

Delegates, here is the October 2018 MERC Newsletter, albeit later than usual due to the meetings and wind farming workshop held in Crookwell 7/9th November and travel time spent by the author to get to/from the lovely Upper Lachlan Shire Council area from Tamworth.

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.

The speakers were (in order):-

  • Andrew Bray (National Wind Alliance Coordinator) who addressed delegates on the work of the Alliance, discussed his report Building Stronger Communities: Wind’s growing role in Regional Australia (where the focus is on the industry’s relationship with the broader community, it does include some discussion of benefits for Councils, Section 355 committees and VPAs. He says “Councils and wind developers have reached a fairly common understanding of what wind farm VPAs look like these days”), he also spoke about the Best Practice Charter for Renewable Energy Developments provided by the Clean Energy Council which he recommended Councils obtain and experiences.
  • Charlie Prell, former Councillor Upper Lachlan Shire Council, an associate of the Australian Wind Alliance, a local farmer outlined his experiences with wind turbines near his property and the benefits and issues associated with Councils and the community dealing with them;
  • Chris Berry, Director Planning Services, Yass Valley Council (they held their own in house workshop on wind farming earlier this year), he is a member of the Canberra Joint Organisation of Councils (representing professional planners in the region) and the DPE Regional Advisory Forum, spoke on the Yass Valley Councils experience with Windfarms – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly he called his paper;
  • John Bell, Upper Lachlan Shire Council General Manager, spoke on the Councils wind farming development experiences, benefits and pitfalls;
  • In the absence of David Kitto (DPE – Executive Director Resource Assessments & Business Systems), Phillipa Duncan (Team Leader development Assessments) and accompanied by Anna Ferguson (Policy Officer) from the DPE, provided an update on planning matters and unfortunately whilst Phillipa did a great job, she was not sufficiently informed at a higher level to answer some of the issues delegates raised that David would have been able to, which was disappointing
  • Finally, Dr Juan Castilla- Pho, University of Wollongong, PhD, MEngSc, BEng (Hons) & Research Fellow, briefly spoke on the Participatory Systems Collaborative Modelling approach they had developed which could be used to better manage conflict in a community when a State Significant or other mining or renewable development such as a wind or solar farm or mine is approved by the NSW Government and there is community concern. He elaborated on the model to delegates the next day who were very impressed with the concept and resolved that the Executive Committee pursue it.

John Bell (General Manager, Upper Lachlan Shire Council), Andrew Warren (Tourism Manager) and staff of Upper Lachlan Shire Council, Crookwell provided a lot of assistance which contributed to the success of the workshop and meetings. Hopefully they will become members of MERC in due course. Where provided, copies of the presentations will be distributed to delegates.

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.The profiles for candidates as Chair were as follows:

The NSWMC and MERC working parties were canvassed and MERC chose Stern, Free, Mitchelmore in that order, NSWMC went the other way Mitchelmore, Free and Stern, so the DPE compromised and chose Free, the middle choice for both, ……….democracy in action!

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 Executive Officer is awaiting the email for the setting of the next meeting, hopefully this occurs before Christmas for round 6.

Website

There is a new part on website where only delegates can access minutes by a “log in” feature with the Executive Officer to canvass members to nominate a person from each Council to do this, if needed, there are still a few Councils that have not yet responded so the Executive Officer will proceed to set up the registration with the website manager.

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.

Next Meetings of Association for 2019

At this stage, we will have our next meetings in Sydney in February and August, then Forbes in May and hopefully MidCoast (Taree, Forster or Gloucester?, the Executive Officer to talk with the Deputy Mayor who is the delegate to MERC) are interested for November 2019, as new members, if not members will be canvassed for their interest in hosting.

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 put aside Thursday 7th (for Executive Committee) and Friday 8th February 2019 as next meeting dates in Sydney.

Annual General Meeting – Election of Executive Committee, Chair and Deputy Chairs

The results of the MERC Executive Committee elections held on 9th November 2018 were: –

  • Chair – Cr Peter Shinton, Warrumbungle Shire Council, elected unopposed as Chair;
  • Deputy Chairs – there were three nominations for the two Deputy Chair positions and elected were Cr Sue Moore, Singleton Council and Cr Lilliane Brady OAM, Cobar Shire Council with Cr James Nolan, Broken Hill City Council, missing out;
  • Executive Committee – there were three nominations for the Executive Committee to fill the three positions resulting in the election of Cr James Nolan, Cr Melanie Dagg (Cessnock City Council) and Cr Owen Hasler (Gunnedah Shire Council). Cr Michael Banasik (Wollondilly Shire Council), due to work commitments in 2018/19, did not stand for the Executive Committee.

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 is to approach Country Mayors Association to present to them and send the current proposal pro forma to delegates to review and provide input and suggestions to the Executive Officer on the content, to entice interest.

In discussions with prominent people in Local Government, the critical points of difference and selling points of our Association are that:

  • MERC is specific on its issues;
  • MERC has seen there is a need to be the voice for energy for Councils;
  • MERC is not hampered by getting involved with the broader whole of state matters;
  • MERC already has a seat at the table – its advice is sought by the government;
  • MERC have experienced delegates on government working groups representing the members voices;
  • MERC are not political and don’t have any collaborative problems within our group of dedicated delegates!

Why wouldn’t a Council join or or why would they leave, you have to ask the question are they truly representing their constituents under the Local Government Act when mining and energy issues are affecting their communities, are the legislated planning processes and Joint Organisations of Councils adequate to do this? Keep talking to your neighbours about the benefits of being a member of MERC.

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.

Membership discussions will be pursued with Mayors of Muswellbrook and Lake Macquarie Councils by the Executive as well.

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 extremly impressed and can see its application in all forms of consultation with the community and have resolved that the Execuitive 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. More later.

Project Working Party

The working party is working with the Executive Officer and Chair to review the current MERC CSG Policy in relation to the NSW Gas Plan; the existing panel of consultants; prepare a survey of member Councils for renewable energy, mining and other specialised skill sets that could be accessed by members to assist with resource sharing, etc. Ron Zwicker has done some excellent preliminary work on the projects already. Thanks Ron.

Project updates:-

Skills Matrix – Still have some Councils to complete a “skills survey” on their staff expertise to be compiled as a resource sharing iniitiative, only 12 received to date, balance to be followed up by Executive Officer;

Environmental Consultants Panel – Letters have been sent to the existing panel of consultants that responded to the formal Expression of Interest process in 2014/15 seeking their response/interest to new criteria that are relevant to members in this day and age, list completed and being assessed by the working party for report to delegates in February.

CSG Policy Review – Preliminary work has commenced on the current Coal Seam Gas Policy and NSW Gas Plan by the working party for report to the February meeting.

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

 The recent Federal Government House of Representatives Inquiry into the Impacts of Mining on Regional Economies was conducted and delegates briefly discussed the submissions Details from all states of Australia can be seen on the link here

There were 56 submissions, including some confidential, others from Regional Councils and entities throughout Australia. The main issues raised consistently in all submissions from the non miners were:- global/corporate procurement; cashflow terms of payment; lack of opportunities for local businesses and local people (if they not already trained and equiped to get jobs and contracts) to be assisted/educated to be potential contractors and employees in order to keep the towns and villages vibrant and occupied; changes to the Royalties for Regions program – put the money back into the regional infrastructure; analysis of the cumultative effects of mining on communities and businesses; better use of TAFE/local schools to train youth to work locally so they remain in the regions so towns don’t die, etc.

There were a lot of excellent recommendations and it will be interesting to see where this Inquiry goes and what it does with them.

Runaway BHP train deliberately derailedInteresting event reported in the news recently about alleged deliberate train derailment, is this a consequence of mechanisation?

See link here

“Green Bank seeks new vehicles” In the SMH, 1ST November 2018, Peter Hannam reports that the nations green investment bank will expand more into pumped hydro and industries such as agriculture and electric vehicles as the surge into renewable energy starts to subside.

This comes about as the banks or firms are becoming more willing to invest in renewables on their own causing a reduction in demand from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (which was set up by the Gillard government and survived the Abbott governments move to have it abolished and the Turnbull governments push to ease the lending constraints it imposed on lenders). Refer www.smh.com.au

“No relief ahead as prices rise”  Cole Latimer writes in the SMH, 31st October 2018 that households and businesses face growing uncertainty over obtaining energy bill relief as wholesale power costs rose by as much as 26% because of the drought, gas prices and policy uncertainty.

Grattan Institute energy director Tony Wood said a number of factors were driving the wholesale price increase since the start of October “Gas is the biggest issue, as its rising price has also set the price for the market” he told the SMH. Mr Wood also said the Australian Energy Market Operator was also concerned about lower water levels in NSW dams that service the Snowy Hydro project. He said “You also have the issue that coal fired power stations have been less reliable”

Rating House Moody’s Investor Service said ongoing policy uncertainty and government threats directed at the energy sector has hindered future investment in the renewables market, which added to higher prices. “the lack of a stable and aligned policy ….is a hindrance to investment” Moody’s said. “As policy changes could affect energy prices, consumers have shown reluctance in entering into the long term, fixed price power purchase agreements (PPA’s) typically used to fund new renewable projects” Refer www.smh.com.au

‘Make it happen” In the Hunter Valley Coal Face October – November edition, Cr Sue Moore, Mayor Singleton Council writes “ If the State Government’s premise for the Resources for Regions is indeed to deliver local infrastructure to support mining communities, then it will be impossible to ignore Singleton Council’s applications under the current round” They are seeking half of the cost of two projects with a combined total of $13m plus to upgrade the Singleton CBD and transport routes to get 9,000 workers living outside the Council area and business to/from the 17 mines in the LGA safely.

“There can be no value put on the peace of mind for worker’s families that will come from knowing the roads their loved ones are driving on are the best possible standard. Because, more important than the route to work, is the drive home to the family again” Cr Moore said. Further details can be found at www.thecoalface.com.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

MERC Newsletter – September 2018

Introduction

Delegates, here is the September 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 will be held on Thursday 8th November 2018 in Crookwell, to commence at 1.00pm with a variety of speakers from Councils, Government etc invited to speak about how Councils can manage wind energy developments more effectively with some excellent examples, with the focus on wind farming and renewable energy generally.

Speakers confirmed to date are:-

  • David Kitto (DPE – Executive Director Resource Assessments & Business Systems), will be presenting in lieu of Mike Young from the DPE;
  • Andrew Bray (National Wind Alliance Coordinator will be speaking on his report Building Stronger Communities: Wind’s growing role in Regional Australia where the focus is on the industry’s relationship with the broader community, it does include some discussion of benefits for Councils, Section 355 committees and VPAs. He says “Councils and wind developers have reached a fairly common understanding of what wind farm VPAs look like these days”.
  • Upper Lachlan Shire Council General Manager – John Bell;
  • Chris Berry, Director Planning Services, Yass Valley Council (they held their own in house workshop on wind farming earlier this year!).

Andrew Warren, Tourism Manager, Upper Lachlan Shire Council, Crookwell is assisting with the organisation of the workshop, dinner, AGM, Executive and Ordinary meetings and activities for the visit to the Upper Lachlan region in November 2018, his help has been very beneficial to date, as you can see with the details in this Newsletter.

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 Warwick Giblin to go over the content of the report and to consider the MERC position. Thereafter the working party, without Warwick, met 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 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 working party is awaiting the DPE to advise who is to chair the Steering Committee before the working party convenes. The position from NSW Minerals Council who met on 20th September 2018 is that they accept progress to date with the Roads Calculator methodology, the Schematic for the DA timeline and parties to agree on a mediator (not IPART) upfront which the MERC working party agrees to as well.

Lisa Corbyn Report on the NSW Development Assessment Process

The Lisa Corbyn Report has finally been received after it was completed in August 2017 and delegates will recall Clr Hasler has been requesting its release as a member of the Regional Advisory Forum. At our August meeting one year later, delegates resolved that more stringent steps be taken to have it released using the means the public have to access government information. This approach wasn’t needed as the report arrived beforehand.

The report and the response from the NSW Department of Planning & Environment (DPE) is being analysed by Warwick Giblin & will be submitted to delegates before AGM. Details are outlined on the DPE webpage and can be seen below and accessed by delegates:

Assessment reports independent review

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment commissioned Lisa Corbyn – former head of the NSW Environment Protection Authority and the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water – to conduct an independent review of the Department’s assessment reports for State Significant projects.

Ms Corbyn consulted with a broad range of stakeholders including community groups, industry groups, professional associations, the former Planning Assessment Commission, the NSW Land & Environment Court, the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy, and a number of NSW government agencies and local councils.

Stakeholders were asked to provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the Department’s assessment reports, and offer suggestions for improvement. Ms Corbyn made 15 recommendations to strengthen and improve the Department’s assessment reports. The Department accepted all 15 recommendations and implementation of reforms and actions to address them is well underway.

Read the Department’s response                       Read the report

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

 A recent meeting for RIAP was held on 6th September 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.

Website

The website has been altered to reflect our strategic direction. There is a new part where only delegates can access minutes by a “log in” feature with the Executive Officer to canvass members to nominate a person from each Council to do this, if needed. The Executive Officer has submitted a request to members for a nominated person to have access to the log in feature, response to be in by 8th October 2018.

Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

The next meeting of RAF has been set down for 18th October 2018, Clr Hasler will provide an update to our November meetings.

Next Meetings of Association for 2018 – 8/9th November

We will have our next meeting and a workshop on 8th/9th November 2018 in the Upper Lachlan Shire, at Crookwell, when its warmer.The Executive Committee will meet in the Upper Lachlan Council Chamber at 9am to 12pm on 8th November 2018 after this the Wind Farm workshop (commencing from 1pm to 4pm) will be held in the Crookwell Memorial Hall. The AGM & Ordinary meeting on 9th November 2018 will also be held in the Crookwell Memorial Hall. The dinner will be a la carte on the 8th November 2018 to be held at the Crookwell Services Club. Catering for the meetings will be provided by Leave it to Me!

Accommodation (for the Executive Committee that has to bump in on Wednesday night 7th November 2018 for their meeting next morning from 9am), has been reserved by the Upper Lachlan Council at the Uplands Pastures Motel.

All accomodation options in and around the town of Crookwell are available on the following link, buses to/from the villages may be available or organised, if accomodation is required out of town: –

https://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/goulburn-area/crookwell/accommodation.

Urgent – Please advise the Executive Officer who is attending the meetings in Crookwell 8/9th November 2018 as soon as possible for catering and quorum purposes.

Annual General Meeting – Election of Executive Committee

Giving delegates a “heads up” regarding the Annual General Meeting to be held on 9th November 2018 in Community Hall Crookwell commencing at 9am as it is election time for delegates to vote for nominations for Chair, 2 Deputy Chairs and 3 others as members of the 6 person Executive Committee.

All positions on Executive Committee will be open and subject to nomination. For the information of delegates, if you intend standing for the Executive Committee, the election processes are outlined in the MERC constitution on the web site and the Returning Officer will be the General Manager, Upper Lachlan Shire Council, Mr John Bell. The Executive Officer will be calling for nominations in October as per the constitution. If any potential candidates have any enquiries in regard to the process before the meeting please discuss them with the Executive Officer.

Membership Campaign

The following Councils have been invited to attend the wind farming workshop at Crookwell on 8th November, networking dinner that night plus the meeting next day as observers to see how MERC operates: Inverell, Glen Innes – Severn, Hilltops, Snowy Valleys, Snowy Monaro, Goulburn – Mulwaree, Queanbeyan – Palerang, Yass Valley, Upper Lachlan in view of their wind farming developments.

In discussions with prominent people in Local Government, the critical point of difference and selling points of our Association are that the Association is specific on its issues; has seen there is a need to be the voice for energy for Councils; is not hampered by getting involved with the broader whole of state matters; has a seat at the table; its advice is sought by the government; we have experienced delegates on government working groups representing the members voices; we are not political and don’t have any collaborative problems within our group of dedicated delegates!

Why wouldn’t a Council join or or why would they leave, you have to ask the question are they truly representing their constituents under the Local Government Act when mining and energy issues are affecting their communities, are the legislated planning processes adequate to do this? Keep talking to your neighbours about the benefits of being a member of MERC.

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 stregthen the membership campaign. The foray into wind farming in the south will again provide more opportunities to present our case for them to join us. Southern NSW and New England areas will be targeted in due course, like we have with Orana and will with the Upper Lachlan Council neighbouring areas.

Research Fellowship Update

A contact from Wollongong City Council via Cr Tania Brown for the Executive Officer to contact Professor Pascal De Perez has evolved and discussions have taken place on opportunities with the University of Wollongong. A spokesperson (Dr Castilla) will attend the Executive Committee meeting/workshop on 8th November 2018 to discuss MOU, topics, etc.

They seem very interested in the Ph Fellowship program with MERC and already have a relationship with Wollonging City Council and Bathurst City Council in a variety of areas.

 Project Working Party

The Project working party is:- Jason Linnane, General Manager Singleton Council (Chair) the Executive Officer, planning staff that regularly attend MERC meetings in Ron Zwicker, Heather Nicholls, David Henry and Andrew Johns.

The working party is working with the Executive Officer and Chair to review the current MERC CSG Policy in relation to the NSW Gas Plan; the existing panel of consultants; prepare a survey of member Councils for renewable energy, mining and other specialised skill sets that could be accessed by members to assist with resource sharing, etc. Ron Zwicker has done some excellent preliminary work on the projects already.

Projects update:- members have been requested to complete a “skills survey” on their staff expertise to be compiled as a resource sharing initiative, to be back with the Executive Officer by 8th October 2018. Letters have been sent to the existing panel of consultants that responded to the formal Expression of Interest process in 2014 seeking their response/interest to new criteria that are relevant to members in this day and age for consideration by the working party in early October 2018. Preliminary work has commenced on the current Coal Seam Gas Policy and NSW Gas Plan by the working party.

Presentation to Federal Government House of Representatives Inquiry into the Impacts of Mining on Regional Economies

The submissions from various organisations, businesses and indivduals throughout Australia are on the following site for delegates to follow:

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Industry_Innovation_Science_and_Resources/MiningSector/Submissions

There were 56 submissions, including some confidential, others from Regional Councils and entities throughout Australia.The MERC submission included details on case studies at Gunnedah Shire, Dubbo Regional and Singleton Councils and generally across the state.. Cessnock City Council provided a separate submission which is very detailed and makes some very good arguments specific to their situation as a local government area and Gunnedah attended the Inquiry with Deputy Mayor Cr Gae Swain presenting their submission.

The main issues raised consistently in all submissions from the non miners were:- global/corporate procurement; cashflow terms of payment; lack of opportunities for local businesses and local people (if they not already trained and equipped to get jobs and contracts) to be assisted/educated to be potential contractors and employees in order to keep the towns and villages vibrant and occupied; changes to the Royalties for Regions program – put the money back into the regional infrastructure; analysis of the cumulative effects of mining on communities and businesses; better use of TAFE/local schools to train youth to work locally so they remain in the regions so towns don’t die, etc.

There were a lot of excellent recommendations and it will be interesting to see where this Inquiry goes and what it does with them.

Revised Voluntary Land Acquisition & Mitigation Policy (VLAMP)

The Revised Voluntary Land Acquisition & Mitigation Policy (VLAMP) is now released and available for viewing on DPE website, details below.

“The NSW Government’s revised Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy (VLAMP) for State Significant Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industry Developments has now been finalised and is available on the Department of Planning and Environment’s website. It applies to:

  • new applications made after the policy has commenced;
  • existing applications that were not yet determined when the policy commenced; and
  • modification applications that involve increases to the approved dust or noise impacts of a development.

The Department has also released a report summarising the feedback received during the public exhibition of the draft revised VLAMP and how this has informed the final version. We would like to thank everyone who shared their feedback and advice during this process”.

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

Contact

Over 800,000 renters are closer to benefitting from rooftop solar” From the Department of Planning and Environment info@enews.planning.nsw.gov.au site:-“100 residential and commercial tenants taking part in the Clean Energy Knowledge Sharing Initiative will see their annual bills reduce collectively by over $25,000, saving some 130 tonnes of carbon emissions”….. for more details go to the site or see a condensed version below.

“More than 800,000 renters in NSW are a step closer to sharing in the benefits of rooftop solar thanks to a NSW Government initiative backing clean energy projects.  Minister for Resources and Energy Don Harwin said Sun Tenants, a Sydney company that helps renters and property owners enjoy the benefits of solar, has received $33,000 from the NSW Government’s Clean Energy Knowledge Sharing Initiative to install solar panels on 100 residential and commercial rental properties.

“I’m delighted to announce that we are backing Sun Tenants on a pilot project to help people who are renting property join the solar revolution,” said Minister Harwin. “This fantastic project is a real win–win for property investors and tenants and has already been shown to have halved tenants’ energy bills in an earlier pilot scheme. “It’s one of 10 projects we are supporting across the state as part of the NSW Government’s $300,000 Clean Energy Knowledge Sharing Initiative.”

Mr Harwin said “the Government’s investment would leverage an additional $680,000 of private sector investment as well as close to $400,000 project participant and industry–in–kind contributions to help deliver the successful co–funded projects. He said “The NSW Government is also helping 4,500 vulnerable households take control of their energy bills by installing roof top solar under its Home Energy Action Program. “Government relies on strong partnerships with the private sector as part of our transition to a clean, affordable and reliable energy future,” Mr Harwin said.

“The Clean Energy Knowledge Sharing Initiative provides an opportunity for innovators and early adopters to test and trial new clean energy solutions.” Sun Tenants founder Dr Bjorn Sturmberg said the 100 tenants taking part in the project would see their annual bills reduce collectively by more than $25,000. “This pilot will help people save some 130 tonnes of carbon emissions, reducing tenants’ bills and helping property owners increase the value of their investment,” Dr Sturmberg said.

“Sun Tenants incentives owners to install solar by arranging for tenants to pay a little extra rent in exchange for free solar power. Our technology monitors tenants’ solar savings, showing how the savings exceed any increase in rent. “One of the best ways to attract and retain quality tenants is to create shared value, with solar benefiting everyone financially while reducing our impact on the planet.”

Since 2001, there have been 422,662 small solar units installed in NSW, with Census data showing 814,549 renter households state–wide”.

“Barnaby Joyce shines spotlight on where mining wealth goes’ Jamieson Murphy from Northern Daily Leader writes on 4th September 2018.  Mr Joyce’s inquiry in to the relationship between the mining sector and regional businesses was in Tamworth on Tuesday, hearing from local councils and mining companies.  “Every day, dozens of trains burdened with roughly $66-million worth of coal pass through Gunnedah and the Liverpool Plains – New England MP Barnaby Joyce says he wants to see more of that money stay local, rather than being carted off to the capital cities. What is important to me, is the comparative analysis of what is extracted from a district, and the wealth that remains in a district,” Mr Joyce said “There is immense wealth going to other places, and small amounts staying.”

Liverpool Plains Shire mayor Andrew Hope said his council wants to see more of the money generated from the region’s mining sector spent on the “infrastructure pinch points” it created. “The Werris Creek overpass is one of those pinch points, which we’ve got an estimate on the books for $14 million,” Cr Hope said “With trains coming through so often, it cuts off our emergency services, breaks the town in half and it’s about a 40-kilometre round trip to the highway to get around it.”

Mr Joyce said based on evidence heard in the inquiry, the state government made about $6.6m a day in royalties from the region’s mining industry, based on current coal prices. 

“So that Gunnedah overpass is two – day’s worth of royalties.” Mr Joyce said.

Gunnedah Shire deputy mayor Gae Swain told the inquiry she’d like to see a “formalised expectation” with mining companies to contribute to public facilities such as swimming pools and sporting grounds. I think there should be some process where that social and moral responsibility is picked up in to discussions,” Cr Swain said “Large numbers of workers and their families moving in to our shire will lead to further social shortages in facilities such as housing, schooling and childcare.” Refer www.northerndailyleader.com.au

“ASIC urges climate details Article in the Industrial Careers News 24th September 2018 states: “ASIC says Australian companies should do more to disclose risks posed by climate change. The regulator says most ASX 100 companies consider the potential risks posed by climate change, but the practice of disclosing these risks to investors is “considerably fragmented, with information provided to the market in differing forms across a wide range of means of disclosure”. ASIC has published a report on climate risk disclosures by 60 companies in the ASX 300, in 25 recent initial public offering (IPO) prospectuses, and across 15,000 annual reports. Of these 60 companies, about 17 per cent identified climate change as a material risk to their business. The percentage of annual reports of all listed companies that contained climate change-related content fell fallen from 22 per cent in 2011 to 14 per cent in 2017.

“Climate change is a foreseeable risk facing many listed companies in the Australian market in a range of different industries,” ASIC commissioner John Price said. “Directors and officers of listed companies need to understand and continually reassess existing and emerging risks (including climate risk) that may affect the company’s business – for better or for worse.”

Some analysts say Australia’s generic risk disclosure laws for companies should apply to climate change. “There’s a difference between what ASIC says the laws say and what companies are doing,” said Will van de Pol from Market Forces. “It’s clear from this report and our financial research that many Australian companies are not meeting their legal requirements. It means that investors are being left in the dark about the risk to the companies that they own from climate change.” Refer www.industrialcareers.com.au

“Schott fires at PM’s plans” Article in the Industrial Careers News 24th September 2018 states: Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott has warned the Morrison government against threats to energy companies. Federal energy minister Angus Taylor and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have threatened to call a royal commission or break up energy companies if prices do not move down soon. But Dr Schott says these measures are not likely to be helpful.

“I think what will happen going forward is that the reliability obligation part of the NEG will probably get support. We’ll have to wait for the rest of it. The sad thing is the drop in prices that would have occurred in the wholesale market will be less than it otherwise would [have been],” she said at a recent Infrastructure Partnerships Australia conference.

“And the other sad thing is that while the national government is in the state that it’s in at the moment, there is a flavour of more market intervention than just stepping back and letting the states and the market get on with it. The next planned Council of Australian Governments Energy Council meeting has been cancelled, and reports say a teleconference version will be held in mid-October. The reliability obligation of the NEG could be signed off at a formal meeting in December”. Dr Schott says.

Although the federal government has scrapped carbon emissions targets in the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), the experts say the reliability obligation will be needed before the closure of AGL Energy’s ageing Liddell Power Station in NSW in 2022. Some states are unhappy that the government is slowing progress.

“We continue to get nothing but chaos and confusion about energy policy in Canberra,” Queensland energy minister Anthony Lynham said. “We are on a national electricity network that requires national leadership. This has gone on for too long.”

Dr Schott says she has spoken with Mr Taylor since his appointment three weeks ago. She said he is focused on the ACCC’s recommendations for the government to buy power from new generation projects to support investment, but “he is quite interested in progressing the reliability obligation” though “not necessarily in its current architecture. We just need to be careful we are not doing anything the market was going to do anyway,” she said.

Refer www.industrialcareers.com.au for further details.

 “Gas sector want climate clarity  Another good article of interest in the Industrial Careers News is this: “The gas industry has become the latest to call on the Federal Government to come up with a climate and energy policy. Gas companies and associated industries says that investors need certainty if Australia wants to take advantage of opportunities for developing new gas and renewables projects. As policymakers seek to tackle the energy trilemma and solve a decade-long failure to effectively integrate energy policy and climate policy, ongoing uncertainly prevails in the market,” APA Group executive of transmission Rob Wheals told a recent industry conference.

“Uncertainty affects investment decisions, and ultimately prices and energy reliability for all Australians. And today we are still here. We still don’t have a national energy policy.”

Gas industry advisers and consultants say the industry is not necessarily in conflict with renewables, especially in regard to the Federal Government’s support for the construction of more coal-fired power stations. “The idea of building new coal-fired power stations is in my mind a backward step,” said analyst Martin Wilkes from RISC, which does consultancy work for companies including Santos.

“I think we need to be looking to close off coal from the power generation mix, and rely on something that will be more reactive, and more in keeping with partnering renewables, which is what gas is.”

Deloitte analysis says Australia will probably not be able to switch from coal straight to renewables. “Gas is by far the cleanest of the fossil fuels and it has critical mass in global demand, so it’s easier to accelerate switching from coal to gas in power stations than directly pick up all that demand with renewables,” Deloitte director of consulting, Alan Samuel, said.

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