Sunday, September 26, 2021

Australia needs a ‘clear plan’ for net zero to avoid energy crisis

Barnaby Joyce has hit thenail on the head. Greenies and their supporters have NO plan for what will replace coal-fired electricity. Nukes are anathema and natural gas is an increasingly scarce and expensive fossil fuel. But only those two could keep the lights on at night and when the wind is not blowing

Mr Joyce has made a slight pivot in his stance on committing to a net zero target by 2050 after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg made an economic case for adopting the target in a speech to business leaders on Friday.

The Nationals have traditionally been opposed to the commitment; however, the remarks from Mr Joyce may signal a future shift in the party’s position.

“We want to make sure – and the Coalition is a prudent organisation – we want to make sure that any process forward doesn’t just follow rhetorical flourish, one-line headlines, but makes sure that we have a clear plan,” Mr Joyce told reporters on Friday.

“I have to show the Australian people what happens, what it looks like when you get it wrong.

“And the UK energy crisis, the European energy crisis, will be our energy crisis.

“At the end of that graph resides coldness and unemployment, and we don’t want either of those.

Mr Joyce indicated he believed the treasurer was “completely right if people make decisions that restrict the flow of capital”, however, Australia should not allow “third parties” to restrict the capacity to act within rules and within a process that is legitimate.


Victoria Police censored 'vital' media coverage of Melbourne protests

Victoria Police censored vital media coverage of Melbourne's protests by banning the live-streaming of aerial footage, according to Digital Editor Jack Houghton.

On Wednesday the Civil Aviation Safety Authority approved a Victoria Police ban of all helicopters bar their own flying over Melbourne CBD.

"A media blackout," Mr Houghton said. "A pathetic attempt by an over-zealous police force which lost control of its own city.

"You deserve to know what's happening in your city every moment of every day, and in my experience, police only ever want you to stop filming when they are worried about stuffing something up."


Australia signs deal with Nauru to keep asylum seeker detention centre open indefinitely

Australia will continue its policy of offshore processing of asylum seekers indefinitely, with the home affairs minister signing a new agreement with Nauru to maintain “an enduring form” of offshore processing on the island state.

Since 2012 – in the second iteration of the policy – all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat seeking protection have faced mandatory indefinite detention and processing offshore.

There are currently about 108 people held by Australia on Nauru as part of its offshore processing regime. Most have been there more than eight years. About 125 people are still held in Papua New Guinea. No one has been sent offshore since 2014.

However, Nauru is Australia’s only remaining offshore detention centre. PNG’s Manus Island centre was forced to shut down after it was found to be unconstitutional by the PNG supreme court in 2016. Australia was forced to compensate those who had been illegally detained there, and they were forcibly moved out, mostly to Port Moresby.

But the Nauru detention facility will remain indefinitely.

In a statement on Friday, home affairs minister Karen Andrews said a new memorandum of understanding with Nauru was a “significant step forwards” for both countries.

“Australia’s strong and successful border protection policies under Operation Sovereign Borders remain and there is zero chance of settlement in Australia for anyone who arrives illegally by boat,” she said.

“Anyone who attempts an illegal maritime journey to Australia will be turned back, or taken to Nauru for processing. They will never settle in Australia.”

Nauru president, Lionel Aingimea, said the new agreement created an “enduring form” of offshore processing. “This takes the regional processing to a new milestone. “It is enduring in nature, as such the mechanisms are ready to deal with illegal migrants immediately upon their arrival in Nauru from Australia.”

Australia’s offshore processing policy and practices have been consistently criticised by the United Nations, human rights groups, and by refugees themselves.

The UN has said Australia’s system violates the convention against torture and the international criminal court’s prosecutor said indefinite detention offshore was “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” and unlawful under international law.

At least 12 people have died in the camps, including being murdered by guards, through medical neglect and by suicide. Psychiatrists sent to work in the camps have described the conditions as “inherently toxic” and akin to “torture”.

In 2016, the Nauru files, published by the Guardian, exposed the Nauru detention centre’s own internal reports of systemic violence, rape, sexual abuse, self-harm and child abuse in offshore detention.

The decision to extend offshore processing indefinitely has been met with opprobrium from those who were detained there, and refugee advocates who say it is deliberately damaging to those held.

Myo Win, a human rights activist and Rohingyan refugee from Myanmar, who was formerly detained on Nauru and released in March 2021, said those who remain held within Australia’s regime on Nauru “are just so tired, separated from family, having politics played with their lives, it just makes me so upset”.

“I am out now and I still cannot live my life on a bridging visa and in lockdown, but it is 10 times better than Nauru. They should not be extending anything, they should be stopping offshore processing now. I am really worried about everyone on Nauru right now, they need to be released.”

Jana Favero from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the new memorandum of understanding only extended a “failed system”.


Coking coal price hits record highs as Chinese steel-makers face pain

The price of metallurgical coal has risen to record levels as trade tensions and border problems push the cost for Chinese importers sky-high.

Coal for coking purposes has soared despite declines in iron ore values attributed to Chinese steel-makers abiding by a government directive to avoid buying from Australia.

The value has surged to $US410 a tonne in the past week, representing a more than tripling in price since early 2020.

Coking coal is now overtaking iron ore as the largest input cost for many of the world's steel mills.

Mining analyst Peter Strachan said while the booming price appeared counterintuitive given the slide in iron ore demand, logistical issues in Asia were at play.

"Normally they get a lot across the border from Mongolia but COVID restrictions have meant they haven't been able to get enough truck drivers to do it," he said.

"Shipping costs have skyrocketed, the Chinese are just scrambling and paying over $US500 a tonne for the stuff delivered. Ex-Newcastle it's well over $US400, that's a new high."

With poor domestic supplies of metallurgical coal, Chinese buyers were racing to source shipments from across Asia, North America and as far afield as Columbia as a result.

As a result of China's hunt for new suppliers, major steel-making nations with limited domestic metallurgical coal such as India, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the EU are now increasingly turning to Australia.

Director of the Bowen Basin Mining Club Jodie Currie said the loss of the Chinese market had opened new doors for the region's miners.

"I think it gave them opportunity to look at other markets, Queensland coal is sought after across the world," she said.

"There were certainly shock waves sent through the industry but we've diversified, we've looked at other markets."

Property market-induced slide

Concerns over the financial woes of Evergrande, one of China's leading property developers has been seen by many commentators as a catalyst for the declining iron ore value.

Analyst Peter Strachan said, with increased recycling of metals domestically, metallurgical coal demand in China could reach a peak soon.

"Eventually there will be a correction, the Evergrande issue is going to put a hiatus on the expansion of steel-making," he said.

"We're also seeing a lot more scrap iron coming though the [steel production] system, eventually China's going to move towards 20, 30 per cent of their steel coming from scrap."

Falling steel production through July and August as a result of the planned cap on steel-making has been mirrored by a decline in other polluting industries such as cement, another sector blamed for poor air quality in Chinese cities.

"There are a number of climate-related, clean-air issues, the big polluters tend to cut back ahead of winter, especially with the Winter Olympics coming," Mr Strachan said.

After the price of iron ore crashed from $230 in May to as low as $93 a tonne in recent weeks, some stability returned to the market in recent days following indications Evergrande will pay interest payments due today.

The price rose back above the $US100 mark in mid-week trade.


Vulcan metallurgical coal mine approved for Queensland

Vitrinite has been granted a mining lease for its new $160 million Vulcan metallurgical coal mine near Moranbah.

The project between Moranbah and Dysart will create at least 150 full-time jobs and is expected to deliver a major economic boost to the Isaac and Mackay regions.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the Queensland company had invested significant time and effort exploring for coal on its Vulcan Complex project in the Bowen Basin.

He said it had led to the discovery of premium, high quality metallurgical coal seams.

Metallurgical coal, also known as coking coal, is primarily used to make steel and is currently attracting record export prices.

Mr Macfarlane said the granting of a mining lease for Vulcan facilitated the first four years of an expected 15-year-plus mine life, which on its own is a $160 million, nine million tonne (Mt) mine.

“During this four-year period, Vulcan will contribute an estimated $170 million in royalties to the Queensland budget which will be used to fund essential health, education and infrastructure projects,” he said.

“On top of that, the project will contribute millions of dollars to the Queensland economy through taxes and the uptake of goods and services.”

Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the new Vulcan coal mine was the first mining project for Vitrinite.

“The project shows ongoing investor confidence in Queensland’s world-class resources, infrastructure and skilled workforce,” he said.

“Queensland’s resources industry has been integral to our economic recovery, operating through the pandemic and now supporting a sector record 85,000 jobs in our state.

Vitrinite founder and managing director Nick Williams said the company was grateful to be part of the Central Queensland mining community.

He said he was proud to prove a private, family-style business could succeed in Australia alongside some of the world’s largest companies.

“We started off small, but what began as the dream of a few, young entrepreneurs has evolved to a stage where we’re creating at least 150 full-time jobs, which will lead to more indirect jobs, and can make a significant contribution to the state economy,” he said.

“We are a family business, and we want to continue how we’ve started, to create a company that supports family and makes people a keystone of every business function.

“When planning the Vulcan mine, and everything we do, we also put a very large focus on minimising our environmental impact, to ensure we’ll leave this land better than we found it for future generations,” he said.

“We have implemented plans to minimise water usage, reduce overburden movements, use innovative technologies and conduct progressive rehabilitation beyond our statutory requirements, so we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously.

“While this is good policy for the environment, it also translates into good business practices which will allow us to maximise the value of these resources for all Australians.”

Mr Macfarlane said the community could be confident the Vulcan project had undergone rigorous regulatory assessment to establish its environmental credentials before having its mining lease approved.

“Queensland is widely regarded as having the strictest environmental regulations in the world, which our industry is fully committed to complying with, along with our determination to lower carbon emissions and implement sustainable mining practices,” he said.

“The Vulcan Complex mine project is also the first resources project in Queensland to have its Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure Plan approved under new legislation introduced in 2019.

“A PRCP commits mine operators to progressively rehabilitating land while the mine is operating and returning the land to its pre-mining use at the end of the project, which in this case is low-intensity cattle grazing.

“This is the future of mining and ensures Queensland resources companies can continue to operate safely and sustainably with the support of their communities and government regulators.”




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