Doorstop interview – Opening of Whitehaven Maules Creek Coal Mine
IAN MACFARLANE: It’s great to be here at Maules Creek today, another significant milestone in the economic development of regional Australia. Coal has played a very significant role in the development of regional areas, such as this area here on the Liverpool Plains, but also right across the Hunter Valley, up into Queensland, the Central Highlands - that farming country up there was opened up as a result of the coal industry building the railway lines and the dams. So the co-existence that exists between farming and mining continues here today, and the economic boost it’ll give to this region and the jobs of this region are going to significantly enhance the standard of living, not only of people who live here, but right across Australia.
JOURNALIST: With the approval process, that was the point that was made, that’s the longest part of this, how can we see that changing in the future? Is there moves there?
IAN MACFARLANE: Well the Commonwealth Government is looking currently at how we can ensure that there isn’t interference in the process, malicious interference to try and slow the process down and ultimately stop investors going ahead with investments. We are looking at an amendment to the EPBC Act. That amendment will not prevent people who adjoin the mine or have land adjoining the mine from raising concerns or appealing against any permit. But it will prevent what we’ve seen in Queensland and also in New South Wales where people who don’t live anywhere near the region tie up applications in courts, not only for months but actually for years. Australia needs jobs and we need sustainable economic development that is in sync with the environment. The development of this mine is a great example of how you can develop a coal mine, how you can rehabilitate the country when you’re finished, but most importantly how you can export some of the cleanest coal in the world, that produces electricity for people who currently, in some cases, don’t even have electricity, but electricity with the lowest emissions that can come from coal-fired power.
JOURNALIST: Today the State Government brought in legislation that would see more consideration given to environmental and community impact of mining. Does that then counteract the Federal Government proposals?
IAN MACFARLANE: Well there should be the opportunity for communities to have their say in the development of their communities, and in terms of how that is done, that’s up to individual states. It’s where those processes are abused, where people who don’t have either a social or economic interest in the direct sense, to the development, are interfering with that process and playing it out over literally years and years. People should have the opportunity to have their say, but it shouldn’t take five or six years to get an answer to that query.
JOURNALIST: How confident are you the coal mine will see through its thirty year life span with the downturn in commodity prices, especially in coal.
IAN MACFARLANE: Well what we’re seeing here is one of the best examples of coal mine development, this mine was developed at a capital cost of around $62 a tonne of coal produced per annum, and a production cost still below the return that they’re getting from coal, so this is a profitable mine right from the get go, it’s an example not only of a very careful environmental development of a mine, but also of a highly efficient mining operation that’s creating jobs locally and is sustainable even at current low prices.