Green state backflips on mining

As support for mining grows in Tasmania, the noose the Greens have had tied around industries’ neck appears to be loosening.

The state has long been a Green’s strong hold, a party who’s policies don’t always align with industry, and thus mining developments have been in many cases left over the Straight.

But pro-mining activists are gathering, with more than 2000 people turning out in force at a pro-mining rally this month, numbers which are usually reserved for anti-mining events.

Protesters gathered outside Tullah Community Hall to support Venture Minerals’ proposed Livingstone and Riley Creek mines in the Tarkine rainforest.

Organised by the Tasmanian state government and the Australian Workers Union, Premier Lara Giddings said the rally was “the biggest pro-mining rally ever in Tasmania”.

The new mines are expected to create about 1000 jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue.

The State’s resources minister Bryan Green said in Question Time last month that such community backing demonstrates Tasmania is “open for business”.

AWU secretary Ian Wakefield also commented on the turnout, saying it illustrated Tasmanian’s appreciate the mining sectors’ potential contribution to the economy.

“When one out of three kids can’t get a job, the only way to turn that around is if you have industry and industry for the future,” Wakefield said.

“That can only happen if you have got new projects to replace other projects when they wind up.”

Reaffirming her support for new mining projects, Giddings said mining was essential for Tasmania’s economy.

“The government fought hard against the heritage listing of the Tarkine, and the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the industry since the Federal Liberal government nominated the area for assessment has been lifted,” she said.

Tasmania’s economic performance is lagging behind all other States, posting some of the weakest economic data in the country.

In Commsec’s recently published ‘State of the States’ report, Tasmania recorded the weakest economic growth rate at -3.3 per cent, and an unemployment rate of 7.2 per cent, figures which have many banking on mining to boost growth.

Venture Minerals’ Riley mine alone is predicted to triple bulk mineral exports through the Burnie port and pour tens of millions of dollars into the Tasmanian economy.

But mining’s influence on Tasmania’s economy is already being felt; a recent report commissioned by the Minerals Council found five mining and minerals processing companies are producing almost half of Tasmania’s exports.

The companies on the list, including Grange Resources, MMG, Nystar, Pacific Aluminium and Norske Skog, contributed $1.5 billion in exports, or nearly 49 per cent of Tasmania’s total exports and the reve­nue generation is responsible for 11 per cent of Tasmanian GDP.

But in the eyes of business and industry Tasmania is still regarded as a heavily ‘Green’ state, and mining, particularly in the Tarkine, has not had an easy time getting off the ground.

Conservationist group, Save the Tarkine Coalition, led by Scott Jordan, has been very vocal in the group’s campaign against mining activities in the region.

“If these miners want to turn up and want to start trying to dig holes in the Tarkine, we’ll be there, and our intent will be to stop it,” he said.

The Greens have held back development of the State for years now, and it’s not out of malice, it’s more a policy issue, traditionally the party doesn’t provide a lot of support for mining or logging.

But the Greens are realising they can’t stop all industries, and so in what seems like a political back-flip, the party has said it is looking to establish a mine remediation and innovation centre.

The Greens said the centre will go a long way towards improving mining’s environmental footprint in the State, and they have secured $100,000 in the state budget to kick start the initiative.

Commenting on the play, Professor Kevin Bonham from the University of Tasmania said the Greens seem “keen to market themselves as not completely opposed to the resource industries”.

“The Greens are often keen to combat the label that they are “anti-everything” or perceptions that they are too hardline,” Bonham explained to Australian Mining.

Greens mining spokesman and Member for Braddon Paul O’Halloran recently hit back at accusations that the party doesn’t support mining.

“Saying that the Greens are universally against mining is far from the truth,” he said.

He added Tasmanians should have a modern, long-term industry with minimal impact instead of the cargo-cult model, which he believes is extracting the state’s resources to fill others’ pockets.

Commenting on this vision, Bonham said the party “seems to have a different and more qualified emphasis to that of the major parties – reworking and remediation of existing mines, small-scale low-impact projects and – in rhetoric at least – support for local employment as opposed to projects they regard as ‘cargo-cult’”.

“I don’t think we are heading towards a full ‘de-politicisation’ of the industry any time soon. As far as new large-scale projects, especially in the Tarkine area, go, I expect the traditional conflicts to continue,” Bonham stated.

As a whole Tasmania didn’t fair so well in a recent Fraser Institute study which examined the overall attractiveness of a mining jurisdiction for investment.

The study hands out a ‘policy potential indicator’ (PPI) for every mining province in the world, it asks managers and key industry figures to rate government regulation of their projects against a number of key identifiers.

Surprisingly it found that Tasmania has experienced the most significant decline in the country falling 16.5 per cent to score 54.1 on the PPI scale. As a whole Australia’s average PPI declined in 2012/13, suggesting regulation of the mining industry is going backwards.

That said, it has been on an increasing trend over the last five years, so the slip is not indicative of Australia’s ability to compete on a global scale.

No surprise that Western Austra­lia remained the country’s top ranked region coming in at 15 globally with a PPI score of 79.3. Under the guise of anonymity one Tasmanian explorer claimed the industry was governed by “very green policies”.

The survey results mirrored this sentiment with 40 per cent of respondents indicating environmental regulations were a mild deterrent, 23 per cent saying it was a strong investment deterrent and 13 per cent said they wouldn’t pursue investment because of the current environmental regulations.

But Tasmania is a state bursting with potential; it is the only state that has mapped in detail the land mass from one coast to the other.

In 2002/03, the Tasmanian Government decided that the best way to encourage development of its mining industry was to create an entire 3D interactive map of the state.

Interactive 3D mapping allows miners to see the varying kinds of rock strata, the geological makeup of the area, what minerals it hosts and its depth.

Making exploration a lot easier, the technology enables miners to see a potential seam as well as known deposits from multiple angles; building a full understanding of an area’s geological makeup.

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