Tag Archives: mining

Liberals to fast track mining approvals

Updated February 22, 2013 16:38:28

The WA Liberal party will spend $20-million to help fast track mining approvals if it is re-elected to govern in a fortnight.

The party plans to create a database of environmental and heritage information, which mining companies will be able to access online.

It will also expand an approvals tracking scheme it introduced during its current term of government that allows proponents to track the progress of their approval, regardless of which government department is doing the evaluation.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore says the two policies will make it easier for mining companies to get their approvals processed.
“They’ll be able to see what work’s been done in the past,” he said.

“[They] can access that, and use it, and save having to repeat a lot of the approvals processes that they would have had to do if that information was not available.”

The State’s peak mining lobby has welcomed the pledge.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy says both policies will encourage future growth and investment across the sector.

Topics: mining-industry, mining-environmental-issues, elections, liberals, wa, perth-6000

First posted February 22, 2013 16:24:23

Greens want Senate inquiry into mining tax

Updated February 19, 2013 18:54:37

Greens leader Christine Milne has announced plans to set up a Senate inquiry into the failure of the mining tax to raise any significant revenue.

The tax raised $126 million in its first six months, well short of the full-year forecast of $2 billion.

Senator Milne told the National Press Club today she plans to move to establish the inquiry when the Senate resumes next week.

She says an inquiry will get to the bottom of the tax’s flaws and what needs to be done to fix it.

“I’m confident we’ll get the numbers to be able to have this inquiry into how we got to the situation we have, where the mining giants are not paying their way,” she said.

“Rio Tinto’s celebrating not paying any tax and meanwhile the pockets of single parents have been raided to fill up the shortfall.

“The question is, does anyone in the Parliament have the political will to stand up to the mining companies, especially in an election year?

“The Greens have the courage to do that. We’re prepared to work with Labor.

“We’ll pass it any time between now and winter break. We saw that this was a problem.

“Now that the whole country can see it’s a problem, it really is incumbent on the Government to work with us to fix it.”

The Opposition’s Mathias Cormann says the Coalition will support an inquiry into the design of the mining tax.

“We do think it should be scrapped and any inquiry into the mining tax won’t change our position in relation to this,” shadow assistant treasurer Mathias Cormann said.

“However if the Greens want to give another platform to critics of the mining tax to come out and explain why the mining tax is a bad tax which came out of a bad process, good luck to them. We won’t stand in their way.”

Treasurer Wayne Swan says he has nothing to fear, and the tax should not be judged after just six months.

“It just so happens and it’s politically inconvenient that in the second half of last year commodity prices crashed and that had an impact on revenues,” he said.

“That occurred more generally but these are just facts of life that responsible economic managers take into account.”

Topics: mining-industry, industry, business-economics-and-finance, tax, federal-government, government-and-politics, australia

First posted February 19, 2013 08:28:46

Rio Tinto posts first loss, pays no mining tax


Rio Tinto has posted its first loss under its current corporate structure after recently writing $US14.4 billion off the value of some of its assets.


The world’s third biggest mining company reported a $US3 billion loss for 2012, down from a $US5.8 billion profit the year before.


However, the loss was due to $US14.4 billion worth of write-downs in the value of its aluminium and coal businesses.


Excluding those one-off write-downs, Rio recorded underlying earnings of $US9.3 billion, which is down 40 per cent on last year’s underlying result, but slightly ahead of average analyst expectations which centred on a result around $US9.1 billion.


The size of the write-downs, particularly those related to Rio’s recently acquired Mozambique coal project, saw the departure of Tom Albanese as the company’s chief executive.



You certainly won’t expect to have an MRRT liability when commodity prices are low. Accordingly, we paid no MRRT in respect of the year ended the 31st of December 2012.


His replacement Sam Walsh, the former head of Rio’s Australian iron ore operations, says he will be more conservative about new projects and acquisitions.


“I intend to strengthen the existing management systems, bringing greater rigour to internal challenge and debate, greater clarity and accountability to decision making, and clearer line of sight to the critical business issues that exist across the organisation,” he noted in the company’s report.


“We are reinforcing our capital allocation processes, and will only invest in assets that, after prudent assessment, offer attractive returns that are well above our cost of capital, and which offer a superior return when compared to returning cash to shareholders.”


Mr Walsh has also reiterated the company’s plan to slash costs at its existing mines.


“Throughout 2013 and 2014 we will seek to enhance margins at our existing businesses by unlocking substantial productivity improvements, aggressively reducing costs and better managing our sustaining capital,” he said.


“We are targeting cumulative cash cost savings of more than $US5 billion to be achieved over the next two years, equivalent to an annual run rate of $US3 billion by 2014, assuming stable market and operating conditions, with significant additional cash savings in sustaining capital expenditure and exploration and evaluation spend.”


Mr Walsh also told reporters that he was aware of the controversy about Australia’s Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), which raised only $126 million in the six months to the end of December, well off a previous Treasury forecast of $2 billion.


For the first time, Rio Tinto has confirmed that it did not pay MRRT in 2012.



Rio Tinto is one of the highest taxpayers in Australia, in 2011 I understand that we were the highest taxpayer in Australia. Our tax payments per annum are around $7 billion.


“Given that the MRRT is a tax that kicks in when prices are high, you certainly won’t expect to have an MRRT liability when commodity prices are low,” Mr Walsh said.


“Accordingly, we paid no MRRT in respect of the year ended December 31, 2012.”


Rio’s boss says the tax is functioning as it was designed, which is to tax “super profits” not “normal profits”, and the company was already paying its fair share.


“Rio Tinto is one of the highest taxpayers in Australia. In 2011 I understand that we were the highest taxpayer in Australia,” he said.


“Our tax payments per annum are around $7 billion.”


Despite Rio’s fall in earnings, it has increased its total dividends for the year by 15 per cent to $US1.67 a share, fully franked, ahead of analyst expectations which were for a dividend around $US1.60.


Rio’s final dividend will be 94.5 cents fully franked, up from 91 cents last year.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, company-news, iron-ore, mining-industry, australia, wa

First posted February 14, 2013 17:11:18

SA Premier keen to woo WA mining


South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has gone to Perth to try to lure mining companies east.


He has been involved in a series of meetings with companies including Rio Tinto and Shell.


Mr Weatherill said he was keen to get more resources companies to base their operations in SA.


“We’re trying to attract the mining services companies to use South Australia as a base, a hub for providing mining services for around the nation,” he said.


“It’s beginning to happen but we think that there is an ideal location here in South Australia to service the whole of the mining industry, not just around Australia but around the world.”


The SA Premier said the mining industry continued to grow, despite BHP Billiton’s decision to defer expansion plans for its Olympic Dam mine in the outback, due to the economic climate.


“What is happening because of the BHP deferral, it’s actually causing a large number of smaller players to realise that there is spare capacity here in South Australia,” he said.

Topics: mining-industry, industry, business-economics-and-finance, states-and-territories, government-and-politics, sa, wa, perth-6000, adelaide-5000, olympic-dam-5725, roxby-downs-5725, australia

First posted February 12, 2013 07:23:04

Oakeshott feels ‘a bit duped’ on mining tax design


Independent MP Rob Oakeshott says he feels “a bit duped” by the Government over the design of the mining tax, after it was revealed it raised just $126 million during its first six months.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard wrote to Mr Oakeshott late last month, saying she shared some of his concerns and that the Government was working with the states and territories to close a royalties loophole in the tax.


Under the minerals resource rent tax (MRRT), state royalty charges – including future increases – are refundable to mining companies.


“This issue was examined in the GST distribution review which found that increases in state royalties are neither desirable nor sustainable,” Ms Gillard wrote.


She said senior bureaucrats were examining what changes could be made to how royalties are dealt with, and the Government would then consider what action to take.


Mr Oakeshott says he voted for the tax on the basis it would eventually replace state royalties, and feels “a bit duped” that it has not yet happened. However, he is pleased the Government has signalled a willingness to make changes.


“They recognise that royalties are an unsustainable and bad tax for Australia, and a better way forward is a national resource rent tax, and that Government would look for ways to penalise and reduce any opportunities for royalties to be increased and offset,” he told ABC Radio National.


“We are stuck in transition, and for some reason these negotiations with the states are just start and stop, start and stop, start and stop.”


Fellow crossbencher Tony Windsor is more circumspect about the design of the tax, saying he is getting advice about whether changes are needed.


“If there’s structural issues, let’s fix them. If it’s only profit issues, well leave it alone,” he told reporters in Canberra.


Ms Gillard, along with Treasurer Wayne Swan, renegotiated the tax with the country’s three biggest mining companies soon after replacing Kevin Rudd as prime minister.


Mr Rudd says the MRRT has not collected any significant revenue so far, but says it would be up to Ms Gillard and Mr Swan to decide whether any changes were needed to the design of the mining tax.


“I believe the Australian people deserve, through an appropriate tax mix, an appropriate return on the resources which are ultimately theirs,” he told Sky News.


Asked whether the Government should be afraid of taking on the miners again, Mr Rudd replied: “No Government should ever take a backwards step in the pursuit of the national interest”.


He says any redesign of the tax would need to take into account what undertaking the Prime Minister or Treasurer gave to the mining companies when they negotiated the MRRT.


When the Government handed down this year’s budget it predicted the tax would raise $3 billion in 2012-13. That figure was later revised down to $2 billion.


Labor is coming under pressure from the Coalition to rule out further changes to the tax, given the lower than expected revenue collections.


“The Government should come clean now about what taxes it wants to change and what taxes it wants to increase,” shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said.


“This game of ducks and drakes, snakes and ladders with the independents, letters of comfort to the independents before the election, and then afterwards they’ll legislate changes.


“It’s insidious political stuff, and I’d say to the Government: have a little bit of ticker, be honest with the Australian people about the new taxes you want to introduce and the changes to the mining tax.”


Asked repeatedly this morning whether further changes were possible, Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury responded: “We have no plans to make any changes to the MRRT”.


“We will continue to monitor the revenue receipts. This is a very volatile tax – resource rent taxes always are.


“In terms of royalties, that’s a matter that is being considered by the GST distribution committee. That’s a process that we intend to allow to run its course.”


Labor frontbencher Gary Gray, who is a former senior executive at Woodside Energy, says he does not think the tax needs to be redrawn.


“It’s a profits-based tax, and over the course of the last six and eight months we’ve seen significant volatility in the price indexes particularly for iron ore,” he told ABC Radio National.


“Iron ore has dropped as low as $88 and been as high as $140.”


The Greens and some Labor MPs are pushing for changes to the tax so that it raises more revenue.

Topics: tax, mining-industry, federal-parliament, federal-government, australia

First posted February 12, 2013 11:01:45

Labor talking to states over mining tax tweaks


The Government says it is continuing to negotiate with the states over possible changes to how mining royalties are dealt with under the Commonwealth’s minerals resource rent tax (MRRT).


The Coalition has used Question Time to again attack the policy, following last Friday’s revelations the tax raised just $126 million in its first six months.


The Government’s most recent forecast for the tax was that it would collect $2 billion this financial year.


Labor is coming under increasing pressure from the Greens and independent MPs, as well as some of its own MPs, to redesign the tax and remove the provision to refund state royalty charges to mining companies.


Opposition Leader Tony Abbott asked the Prime Minister whether she would rule out further changes to the tax.


Julia Gillard responded: “We have been concerned about increases in these inefficient taxes, and we’ve asked the GST Distribution Review to look at the matter.


“We’ve received their conclusions, and they are that the current treatment of royalties under the MRRT is both unsustainable and undesirable.


“So we’ve said that through the heads of Treasury process, we would work on that with state counterparts in coming months.”


Treasurer Wayne Swan has blamed a “dramatic collapse” in commodity prices for the revenue shortfall from the tax.


“We will look at the performance of this tax in light of prices in the normal way by our Treasury and of course by the tax department,” he said.


When the Government handed down last year’s budget, it promised to “spread the benefits of the boom” by using MRRT revenue to pay for increased family payments and higher superannuation contributions.


Liberal backbencher Tony Smith today used Question Time to ridicule that idea.


“Can the Treasurer confirm that when he stated he would spread the benefits of the mining boom, he really meant $5.50 for every Australian?” he asked, holding up some loose change.

Topics: federal-government, federal—state-issues, tax, mining-industry, australia, wa, sa, qld, nt, nsw

First posted February 11, 2013 17:25:18

Shares flat on mining production declines

Updated January 24, 2013 11:28:21

The local share market is trading flat despite a positive lead from Wall Street overnight, with miners among the sectors weighing on the market.

The All Ordinaries index was up 2 points to 4,814 shortly before 11:00am (AEDT), and the ASX 200 index had gained 1 point to 4,789.

Rio Tinto was down 0.7 per cent, while rival BHP Billiton had shed 0.2 per cent.

Two gold and copper miners – Oz Minerals and Newcrest – were down after their latest production results.

Oz shares had tumbled more than 6 per cent to $6.85 after it said fourth quarter production fell, and its Prominent Hill mine was approaching its peak output.

Newcrest shares were off 1.6 per cent after it reported a fall in gold production and said its full-year output would come in at the low end of expectations.

However, oil and gas company Linc Energy surged 13 per cent to $2.44 after releasing two geological reports that estimated there could be up to 233 billion barrels of shale oil in the untapped Arckaringa Basin surrounding Coober Pedy, over the majority of which the company has licences.

Telstra had gained 0.5 per cent, and the big four banks were also in positive territory.

The Australian dollar was buying around 105.37 US cents.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, markets, currency, stockmarket, australia

First posted January 24, 2013 11:27:01

Pressure builds on Govt over mining tax revenue


The Federal Government is coming under more pressure today to reveal how much revenue, if any, it has managed to raise from its controversial mining tax.


The Prime Minister’s revamped Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) is under attack from both ends of the political spectrum.


The Opposition wants to scrap it, the Greens want to ramp it up.


However, they have one thing in common – they are demanding to see exactly how much has been raised in the first six months.


The Government insists it cannot separate out mining tax revenue from its resource rent tax receipts, which include the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax, citing advice from the Tax Office that it would breach taxpayer confidentiality.


Greens leader Christine Milne does not buy that.


“I think it is a convenient excuse in the context of an embarrassment whereby the MRRT has raised no money,” she said.


The Opposition’s assistant treasurer Mathias Cormann holds the same view.


“That is just a convenient excuse. It is just the latest desperate attempt of the Government’s to cover up the massive failure that is Labor’s mining tax,” he said.


Senator Cormann acknowledges that, if the tax has raised no revenue, then giving out the information would obviously reveal that no individual companies had paid tax.


“Well, if it has raised zero or indeed if it has raised a very low amount, it might reveal information about who has not paid tax, but then the confidentiality provisions in the Tax Act are there to protect the privacy of individual taxpayers and not the privacy of non-taxpayers,” he said.


Senator Cormann says no government has ever used this tax advice argument to keep resource rent tax revenue under wraps.


“For more than 20 years, until the 1st of July 2012, the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax was the only federal resource rent tax out there, and of course for a very long time there were two tax payers in relation to a single project that paid that tax and that never prevented the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments from providing regular updates in relation to revenue collections on that tax,” he added.


Robert Jeremenko, the senior tax counsel with the Tax Institute of Australia, does not think the Government’s argument holds water either.


“The tax secrecy provisions are there for a very important reason, but they also have a very important exception within them, and that is that taxpayer information can be disclosed where the public benefit derived from disclosing that outweighs that entity’s privacy,” he explained.


“In addition to that, the minister has a specific exception in the law where the taxpayer’s information is allowed to be disclosed to a minister for the purpose of enabling that minister to exercise a power or perform any function under a tax law.”


Mr Jeremenko says it seems somewhat ridiculous that the Treasurer himself cannot know how much revenue a specific tax is raising.


“I think it is certainly an absurd situation that a tax is raising an amount but, according to the Government, legal advice suggests that the law prevents the relevant minister, being the Treasurer, from knowing how much that tax is raising,” he added.


Mr Jeremenko says he would like to see the advice the Tax Office has provided to the Government about the privacy provisions.


“We need to see the high level advice that the Government is relying on, and that hasn’t been released but, on my reading of the tax law, it says quite clearly that disclosing information to any minister for the purposes of enabling them to exercise a power, perform a function under a tax law is allowed,” he said.


“Now that seems pretty cut and dry. I would imagine that the disclosure of the total MRRT tax take would fall within that.”

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, mining-industry, tax, australia

First posted January 21, 2013 14:51:04

Swan under pressure to boost mining tax revenue


Treasurer Wayne Swan has been urged to change the design of the mining tax after it was revealed it raised well below the amount of money forecast.


Mr Swan yesterday said the tax raised $126 million in its first six months, well short of the $2 billion Treasury had predicted for the year.


Mr Swan cited a huge drop in commodity prices and a higher Australian dollar for the massive shortfall.


The Greens, which have described the result as “shockingly low”, say they are planning to move a bill in Parliament next week to fix some of the loopholes.


They argue state royalty increases should not be refunded by the Commonwealth, that the tax rate should be increased to 40 per cent, and that the coverage of the tax be broadened to include other minerals.


Federal independent MP Rob Oakeshott says he supports the Greens but hopes Mr Swan will show some courage and take the lead.


“[It's] completely outrageous that we’ve found ourselves in this situation,” he said.


“It has to be addressed, and I am very worried and fretting for Australia and Australian business in the non-mining sector that both major parties are either opting out – as the Liberal National Party are – or won’t have the bottle to take this on in an election year in fear of mining ads mark II from a Labor government.


“The Greens are the only ones at the moment who are actually stumping up with a solution and facing the truth that there are some structural issues still to be addressed in this tax.


“If there’s no other option, I will stand alongside them and support their position.


“I would much prefer government and in particular a Treasurer to lead on this, and when Parliament is back in session over the next couple of weeks, I hope we can get some solutions.


“The Parliament is there, and I think majority is on side, in doing what needs to be done to fix some of these loopholes and to turn this into a tax that is working in the national interest rather than against it.”


Ben Mitchell from the Minerals Council any changes to the MRRT will be resisted.


Mr Mitchell says the tax was negotiated extensively with the industry and should not be changed.


“The Minerals Resource Rent Tax is just one of the three major taxes on mining. Company tax and royalties just last financial year raised $22 billion for state and federal governments.


“The MRRT is just a top up tax on top of those other very large taxes.


“There would have to be extensive negotiations with industry … but I don’t think the Government is going to be in a mind to do that.


Mr Mitchell says tax only designed to raise revenue when profits are high and is operating as it should.


After the release of the revenue figures yesterday, the Coalition described the tax as a “dog’s breakfast” and called on Mr Swan to stand down as Treasurer.


“If Wayne Swan had any self-respect, he would resign. He is totally incompetent,” shadow treasurer Joe Hockey told reporters in Sydney.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard renegotiated the mining tax with the three biggest miners – BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata – soon after she took over from Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister in 2010.


Speaking to reporters in New Zealand yesterday, Ms Gillard defended the policy, saying it was designed to tax minerals in the most efficient way.


“There was always going to be volatility in the MRRT… but I still think it’s absolutely fair that at the peak of the profit cycle, Australians see tax from mineral wealth that is dug out of the grounds we all own and the grounds we all share,” she said.

Topics: mining-industry, federal-government, tax, australia, nsw, wa, nt, qld, sa

First posted February 09, 2013 07:14:37

Mining tax raises $126m in first six months


Treasurer Wayne Swan has revealed the mining tax raised just $126 million during its first six months of operation, prompting calls for his resignation.


He says the figure was only provided to him by the Tax Office yesterday, and he released it publicly in the interests of transparency.


“The huge drop in commodity prices in the second half of last year had a dramatic impact on MRRT (Minerals Resource Rent Tax) revenues,” Mr Swan told reporters in Brisbane.


“Indeed, the huge drop in commodity prices and the higher Australian dollar had a huge impact on all of our profits-based taxes.”


In the 2012-13 budget, the Government predicted the mining tax would raise $3 billion, although that was later revised down to $2 billion.


Mr Swan had previously rejected calls to release the revenue figures, citing legal advice that it would be in breach of the privacy provisions of tax laws.



Indeed, the huge drop in commodity prices and the higher Australian dollar had a huge impact on all of our profits-based taxes.


Yesterday, he provided written advice from the Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan, who says he has formed the view that the disclosure of the total revenue figure for the first two quarters would not breach those provisions.


“In doing so I took into account a range of factors, including the total amount of the instalments, particularly the fact that the second instalment was substantially larger than the first,” Mr Jordon wrote.


He also says he took legal advice from the Australian Government Solicitor.


Mr Swan says there has been a partial recovery in commodity prices over recent months, suggesting that revenue collections over the next two quarters would be higher.


The Coalition has described the tax as a “dog’s breakfast” and called on Mr Swan to stand down as Treasurer.


“If Wayne Swan had any self-respect, he would resign. He is totally incompetent,” shadow treasurer Joe Hockey told reporters in Sydney.


Figures provided by the Tax Office show it has cost tens of millions of dollars to administer the new tax. Mining companies are reportedly spending a similar amount to comply with the new arrangements.


Shadow assistant treasurer Mathias Cormann says the tax has been bad for the economy and Mr Swan should take responsibility.


“Any chief financial officer in a publicly listed company that came in 90 per cent below his revenue target on a key measure like this would have to quit his job,” he told ABC News Online.


“Wayne Swan is personally responsible for this mess and he should seriously consider his position.


“(The tax) has raised $126 million over six months, which is much, much, much, much less than he said it would raise. And of course in the meantime, he has spent billions of dollars that he thought it would raise.”


Independent MP Rob Oakeshott says it is clear there is “unfinished business” that needs to be fixed.


“The Treasurer and Prime Minister must immediately renew negotiations in a sensible way with the states on comprehensive tax reform and make this mining tax issue a priority in those discussions,” Mr Oakeshott said in a statement.


“Either that, or use the Parliament or budget to close some loopholes and make the tax work better.”


The Greens have described the revenue outcome as “shockingly low” and are demanding the Government make changes to the design of the tax.


They argue state royalty increases should not be refunded by the Commonwealth, that the tax rate should be increased to 40 per cent, and that the coverage of the tax be broadened to include other minerals.


“This is a Government that said it was prepared to take on the mining industry, but now what we’ve seen is that the miners once again had a big win over Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan in the negotiation of this tax,” Senator Milne told reporters in Canberra.


Ms Gillard renegotiated the mining tax with the three biggest miners – BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata – soon after she took over from Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister in 2010.


Speaking to reporters in New Zealand, Ms Gillard defended the policy, saying it was designed to tax minerals in the most efficient way.


“There was always going to be volatility in the MRRT… but I still think it’s absolutely fair that at the peak of the profit cycle, Australians see tax from mineral wealth that is dug out of the grounds we all own and the grounds we all share,” she said.

Topics: tax, mining-industry, federal-government, australia, wa, sa, qld, nsw, nt

First posted February 08, 2013 13:42:08

Senate orders Tax Office to reveal mining tax revenue


The Senate has passed a motion ordering the Tax Office to reveal how much revenue the mining tax has raised since it was introduced last year.


There has been growing pressure on the Government to detail what money has been collected, despite Labor’s insistence that it is not legally allowed to because of privacy provisions in the tax laws.


According to media reports, the Minerals Resource Rent Tax has not raised any revenue during its first six months of operation.


Today’s motion, put forward by Greens leader Christine Milne, was supported by the Coalition.


It said the revenue details were “in the public interest” in order to provide confidence in how the tax was working.


The motion continues: “The Senate orders the Commissioner of Taxation to provide to the Economics References Committee, by no later than 15 February 2013, details of the revenue collected from the Minerals Resource Rent Tax by the Australian Taxation Office since 1 July 2012, noting that the disclosure pertains to companies and does not breach the confidentiality of natural persons.”


In a statement, a spokesman for Treasurer Wayne Swan told the ABC the Government had “always supported” increased transparency in the tax system.


“The Assistant Treasurer is leading the Government’s work to improve the transparency of Australia’s business tax system so that this kind of information can rightly be released,” the statement said.


“Through this, the Government wants to broaden transparency in the business tax system, including in relation to MRRT revenue, and remove any ambiguity from reporting requirements.


“Protecting taxpayer confidentiality for individuals is essential, but I believe there is a case to examine whether large and multinational businesses should have the same level of confidentiality about the taxes they have paid.”


The ABC has contacted the Tax Office for comment.

Topics: tax, government-and-politics, federal-government, mining-industry, business-economics-and-finance, australia

First posted February 06, 2013 17:16:07

Mining stocks, unemployment push market higher


Mining stocks and better-than-expected unemployment figures have helped drive the Australian share market higher today.


The All Ordinaries index finished the session 15 points higher at 4,956, while the ASX 200 index also gained 15 points to finish at 4,936.


Rio Tinto rose 0.9 per cent and BHP Billiton closed just over a third of a per cent higher.


Fortescue Metals Group finished the session 1.5 per cent higher and gold miner Newcrest added 0.4 per cent.


ANZ and NAB led gains in the banking sector, with each rising around 1.8 per cent.


The Commonwealth Bank ended 0.1 per cent higher, while Westpac fell 0.6 per cent.


It was a far from positive day for most media stocks though, with the Ten Network one of the market’s worst performers as it slid nearly 6.5 per cent.


Seven West Media was a rare bright spot for the sector as it rose 0.9 per cent, while News Corporation lost 3.25 per cent and Fairfax fell 2.9 per cent.


The retail end of discretionary spending fared far better, led by a 3.2 per cent gain for David Jones.


JB Hi-Fi rose 2.9 per cent, Billabong 2.1 per cent and Harvey Norman just under 1 per cent.


Economists had expected official figures released today to show the unemployment rate rising slightly in January, but instead the rate remained steady at 5.4 per cent.


More than 10,000 jobs were created in the month, but there were also signs of underlying economic weakness despite the positive headline figure.


The increase in jobs was entirely down to part-time positions, with enough created to also off-set a loss of nearly 10,000 full-time jobs.


In commodities, West Texas intermediate crude oil was worth around $US96.62 cents a barrel at 5pm (AEDT), while Tapis crude oil in Singapore was selling for about $US122.91 cents a barrel.


The spot gold price rose to $US1,681 an ounce.


Also at 5pm (AEDT) the Australian dollar was buying around $US103.2, 76.3 euro cents, 65.87 British pence, 96.64 Japanese yen and 123.37 New Zealand cents.

Topics: markets, economic-trends, australia

First posted February 07, 2013 18:32:01

Uranium mining group to deliver recommendations


A State Government-appointed committee assessing the best practise approach for uranium mining in Queensland says it may develop recommendations that differ from other states.


Members of the Uranium Mining Implementation Committee have spoken to local authorities, mining companies and stakeholders in the Mount Isa and Gulf regions about the restart of mining.


Committee chairman Peter Bell says they are due to report back to Government next month.


He says they are aiming to ensure the environment, community and workers are safe during future uranium mining.


“Then we’re going … to have another [period] of full days working through our report, our recommendations and making sure we’ve got that right and being able to present a document that is what I think the community would want, and certainly one that will give the Government good direction in regards to the announcement and conditioning,” he said.


“It’s been really about us getting a collective wisdom about the people in the Mount Isa, Gulf region to really give us some confidence in what our thinking is so far and then to help us to really develop the recommendations that we would put to Government.


“Those recommendations will now be developed over the next three weeks.”

Topics: mining-industry, regional, mining-environmental-issues, nuclear-issues, activism-and-lobbying, public-sector, environmental-health, mining-rural, mount-isa-4825, longreach-4730, qld

PNG MP wants no delays on seabed mining project


A former planning minister is calling on the PNG government not to delay the country’s first under-sea mining project “unnecessarily”, saying it will bring huge benefits to the community.


Canada’s Nautilus Minerals has a license to mine copper and zinc under the floor of the Bismarck sea, in waters off the provinces of New Britain, New Ireland and Manus.


Construction of a seafloor production system remains suspended because of a disagreement with the PNG government, which is yet pay its $US23 million stake in the project.


Paul Tiensten, an MP from East New Britain province, has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program there’s no reason for the delay.


“The government has approved it, let’s get on with it,” he said.


“Get the project up and give Nautilus the right and opportunity to develop the project so that Papua New Guinea islands can address some of its development challenges.”


Mr Tiensten says his constituents need the money it will generate to pay for roads, wharves, jetties and to boost their local economies.


He’s dismissed environmental concerns about the project, saying other mining projects in PNG have had similar concerns and yet received government approval.


“There is [a bigger] upside to this project than issues about the environment,” he said.


“I think people are just sensationalising all these environmental problems, because they don’t understand how this system works.


“The system is not a new system – the technology has been around…these people have done the due process and for some reason the government is dragging its feet on it.”

Topics: mining-industry, papua-new-guinea, pacific

Mining good for regional communities: Minerals Council


The resource sector has launched a pre-emptive strike to counter what it fears will be a critical parliamentary report on the effects of fly-in, fly-out workforces in regional Australia.


A federal parliamentary inquiry into the costs and benefits of the mining sector’s fly-in, fly-out workforce practices on regional Australia is due to report very soon.


The Minerals Council of Australia has just released what it says is the first ever demographic study of permanent residents in the nation’s nine main mining regions.


“Basically the findings of this first phase debunk the myths and the anecdotal claims that the mining sector is hollowing out the regions in which it’s operating – quite the contrary,” said the council’s chief executive Mitch Hooke.


He says the report by a KPMG team, led by demographer Bernard Salt, shows a higher standard of living in mining towns.


“They’re growing at a faster rate than non-mining regions – more employment, higher incomes, better educational outcomes and more people moving into those regions,” Mr Hooke added.


Home ownership levels have fallen in mining areas, and are 9 per cent lower than across regional Australia.


However, Mr Hooke says that probably relates to company supplied dwellings rather than fly-in, fly-out effects.


“I suspect that’s probably got a bit more to do with the companies providing accommodation,” he responded.


When asked whether he sees any downsides to fly-in, fly-out, Mr Hooke says he is waiting for the results from the next phase of the Minerals Council’s study.


“We’re not sure the extent to which downsides, as you call them, are actually greater or lesser in those regions than they are in society as a whole, and we hope to be able to get some sort of an insight into that as we work through phase two,” he added.


However, residents in areas with large fly-in, fly-out workforces are doubtful of the report’s findings.


“I’m a little bit sceptical. I haven’t seen the full report as yet, but to me they’ve come up with nothing new,” said Fiona White-Hartig, the president of the Roebourne Shire, that encompasses the Pilbara in the west.


She says there are two sides to the fly-in, fly-out story and one of them is missing from the report.


“We have about 12,000 FIFO in our shire every night that do not pay rates, yet they utilise all the shire facilities, all our road infrastructure etc, but we can’t get the income from that,” she explained.


“They take their money and they spend it when they go home. So we are essentially are supporting this whole economy with FIFO workers that don’t support our town.”


Independent MP Tony Windsor chairs the parliamentary inquiry and thinks the mining sector is concerned about what his report may say.


“I wouldn’t be surprised if the timing of the release of their report has been timed to come out in front of the committee’s report, that might be a matter of 10 days or a fortnight in front,” he said.


Mr Windsor says the KPMG report was submitted too late to make much of a contribution to his committee’s findings.


“We’ve made passing reference to it in the chairman’s report, but the documents were virtually written when a confidential report was sent across to the secretariat. But no doubt it will add to the debate.”

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, economic-trends, mining-industry, regional-development, australia, wa, qld, roebourne-6718, karratha-6714

First posted February 04, 2013 09:33:55

Mining company defends link with high school


A mining company has defended its involvement with a high school on the New South Wales Central Coast, amid concerns it is trying to influence the curriculum.


NuCoal has agreed to provide unspecified resources, such as work experience and career advice, at Narara Valley High School.


The teachers’ union is worried the independence of the curriculum might be compromised, but NuCoal’s Marie Roberts says those fears are unfounded


“We’re certainly not about telling them what to teach or even how to teach it, but we are a resource that’s available should they want to make that connection into the real world,” she said.


NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron says he plans to meet teachers and parents at the school to discuss concerns that the company might have too much influence.


“We would want to see some guarantee that is not the case,” he said.


No direct funding arrangement is in place at this stage.

Topics: public-schools, schools, education, mining-industry, nsw, narara-2250

Truck crashes increasing in mining states: report


While crashes involving trucks are decreasing in NSW, a new report has found an alarming surge in Queensland and Western Australia – most likely attributable to the mining boom.


The Bruce Highway is the worst culprit, struggling to keep up with the large numbers of heavy vehicles using the road.


Critics say in spite of massive roadworks, there are not enough overtaking lanes or rest areas.


In addition, as the past week has shown, it cannot cope with the kind of wet weather frequently experienced in Queensland.


Owen Driscoll, the director of research at the National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) – a body wholly funded by National Transport Insurance – is the author of a new report examining every heavy vehicle accident in Australia in 2011.


His research nominates the Bruce Highway as the most dangerous road in the country.


“If you’re comparing it to the other major highways in Australia it runs a very poor last,” he said.


Another report, published recently by the Australian Automobile Association, found that the Bruce alone accounted for 17 per cent of the deaths on the entire national road network.


Mr Driscoll says that despite the shocking level of fatalities, the Bruce typically services only around 20 per cent of the traffic that runs on major highways such as the Pacific or Hume.


Part of the reason for the high fatality rate is that the Bruce has the greatest proportion of major truck accidents in the country.


The NTARC report pins blame for the rising accident rate on the increase in road transport necessitated by the booming mining industry.


The research also shows a similar high risk of accidents across Queensland and in resource-rich Western Australia.


Not only is the Bruce Highway unsafe, it is a curse for those trying to make a living along it.


In regional Queensland almost everything comes on a truck.


Liz Schmidt, who has run Schmidt Livestock Transport for 34 years and is secretary of the Livestock and Rural Transport Association, is one local scathing in her assessment of the state of the road.


“It’s been neglected for a very long time and it’s not an all-weather highway,” she said.


“I would think in the most recent two wet seasons, we probably lost six or eight weeks with the trucks sitting on the side of the road. Five trucks, five days at a time, or three or four days at a time. And then there’ll be a huge event and there’ll be a bridge washed out.”


The new NTARC report implicates other causes for the high rate of truck accidents on the Bruce beyond the poor state of the road.


A popular conception is that heavy vehicle crashes occur when truck drivers are pushing the limits of fatigue, especially at the end of long days.


But Mr Driscoll believes many drivers are fatigued when they start.


“Seventy per cent of incidents are happening on outbound journeys and, in cases where they’re on an outbound journey, within the first 250 kilometres,” he said.


Mr Driscoll’s research initially involved looking at driver logbooks to assess how over-work affected fatigue and crashes, but he soon realised factors outside of work were a major issue.


Drivers coming back from weekend breaks were often just as fatigued as those coming off a week on the road.


“They haven’t worked since Friday or Friday night, but they’re tired,” he said. “How do you identify that?”


National Transport Insurance has now started educating the businesses and fleets it insures about the benefits of regular fitness checks in addition to responsible rostering.


“We can sit in an office and if we are not feeling all that great on a Monday, because we have had a fairly busy weekend, we can still go to work,” Mr Driscoll said.


“These guys have got to manage even their time off so when they’re back in their truck on Sunday night or the early hours of Monday they’re fit and ready to go.”


Graeme Ransley is the road safety coordinator for the Road Accident Action Group (RAAG), a community organisation concerned at how dangerous the Bruce Highway is.


They are even putting up their own signs beside the road.


One of the biggest concerns for RAAG is the lack of adequate rest areas.


“There are no heavy vehicle rest areas in possibly 120 kilometres of here and there’s only one new one that’s been opened between Mackay and Rockhampton,” Mr Ransley said.


“So, that’s 320 kilometres with only one heavy vehicle rest area and that … it’s recognised in guidelines that there should be a heavy vehicle rest area every 80 kilometres.”


Another major concern is that while heavy vehicle accidents are declining in state’s with the most traffic – such as NSW – they are increasing in the mining boom state’s like Queensland and Western Australia.


“These are the states that are expanding through mining,” Owen Driscoll said.


“So we’re getting more traffic going to new locations on the worst part of the network. The other aspect of that too is that heavy vehicle drivers, many of them, haven’t been into those particular locations before.


“It’s off their normal route. So effectively, as you follow the expansion of the mining industry throughout Queensland and Western Australia, we’re finding there’s more incidents.”


Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the Bruce Highway had suffered from underinvestment.


“That’s why we’ve put $3.3 billion into the Bruce since we came into office,” Mr Albanese said.


“Right today there’s three-and-a-half-thousand people at work both direct and indirect on the Bruce Highway, 90 kilometres of duplication are under construction. Right now there are ten major projects up and down the highway.”


He also said in the previous budget there was almost $200 million allocated for 50 new overtaking lanes, tackling 122 dangerous black spots and 24 new rest areas.


Listen to the full report on Radio National’s Background Briefing on Sunday morning.

Topics: road, road-transport, research, qld, wa

Drop recorded in mining exploration applications


Western Australia’s Department of Mines and Petroleum says a drop in the number of applications to explore for minerals is reflective of shaky global market conditions.


The department processed just over 1,000 applications to conduct mining activity or lease land, in the December 2011 quarter.


That is an increase of 21 per cent on the previous quarter.


But, the number of people actually applying to prospect or explore for minerals dropped by almost 200.


The department says there were 472 applications compared to 653 in the previous quarter.


It says WA’s high operating costs could also be to blame.


The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies says difficulty securing finance is responsible for the drop in exploration applications.


AMEC’s chief executive Simon Bennison says this is partly due to a slowing in investment over the past year, with retail and institutional investors holding on to cash.


“It’s very difficult to access equity finance at the moment,” he said.


“The market’s very tight and I think we’re seeing that reflected in some of the data.”


Mr Bennison says it will take a lift in sentiment to bring investors back to the mining exploration end of the stockmarket.


” I think we’re confident it’ll pick up,” he said.


“It’s cyclical like everything else unfortunately in the resource sector and, you know, it’s just a matter of time until some confidence comes back into the market place.”


Click on the following link for our special report on greenfields exploration.

. Topics: mining-industry, public-sector, perth-6000

First posted January 30, 2013 13:36:13

Shares flat on mining production declines

The local share market is trading flat despite a positive lead from Wall Street overnight, with miners among the sectors weighing on the market.


The All Ordinaries index was up 2 points to 4,814 shortly before 11:00am (AEDT), and the ASX 200 index had gained 1 point to 4,789.


Rio Tinto was down 0.7 per cent, while rival BHP Billiton had shed 0.2 per cent.


Two gold and copper miners – Oz Minerals and Newcrest – were down after their latest production results.


Oz shares had tumbled more than 6 per cent to $6.85 after it said fourth quarter production fell, and its Prominent Hill mine was approaching its peak output.


Newcrest shares were off 1.6 per cent after it reported a fall in gold production and said its full-year output would come in at the low end of expectations.


However, oil and gas company Linc Energy surged 13 per cent to $2.44 after releasing two geological reports that estimated there could be up to 233 billion barrels of shale oil in the untapped Arckaringa Basin surrounding Coober Pedy, over the majority of which the company has licences.


Telstra had gained 0.5 per cent, and the big four banks were also in positive territory.


The Australian dollar was buying around 105.37 US cents.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, markets, currency, stockmarket, australia

First posted January 24, 2013 11:27:01

Pressure builds on Govt over mining tax revenue

Updated January 21, 2013 14:58:48

The Federal Government is coming under more pressure today to reveal how much revenue, if any, it has managed to raise from its controversial mining tax.

The Prime Minister’s revamped Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) is under attack from both ends of the political spectrum.

The Opposition wants to scrap it, the Greens want to ramp it up.

However, they have one thing in common – they are demanding to see exactly how much has been raised in the first six months.

The Government insists it cannot separate out mining tax revenue from its resource rent tax receipts, which include the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax, citing advice from the Tax Office that it would breach taxpayer confidentiality.

Greens leader Christine Milne does not buy that.

“I think it is a convenient excuse in the context of an embarrassment whereby the MRRT has raised no money,” she said.

The Opposition’s assistant treasurer Mathias Cormann holds the same view.

“That is just a convenient excuse. It is just the latest desperate attempt of the Government’s to cover up the massive failure that is Labor’s mining tax,” he said.

Senator Cormann acknowledges that, if the tax has raised no revenue, then giving out the information would obviously reveal that no individual companies had paid tax.

“Well, if it has raised zero or indeed if it has raised a very low amount, it might reveal information about who has not paid tax, but then the confidentiality provisions in the Tax Act are there to protect the privacy of individual taxpayers and not the privacy of non-taxpayers,” he said.

Senator Cormann says no government has ever used this tax advice argument to keep resource rent tax revenue under wraps.

“For more than 20 years, until the 1st of July 2012, the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax was the only federal resource rent tax out there, and of course for a very long time there were two tax payers in relation to a single project that paid that tax and that never prevented the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments from providing regular updates in relation to revenue collections on that tax,” he added.

Robert Jeremenko, the senior tax counsel with the Tax Institute of Australia, does not think the Government’s argument holds water either.

“The tax secrecy provisions are there for a very important reason, but they also have a very important exception within them, and that is that taxpayer information can be disclosed where the public benefit derived from disclosing that outweighs that entity’s privacy,” he explained.

“In addition to that, the minister has a specific exception in the law where the taxpayer’s information is allowed to be disclosed to a minister for the purpose of enabling that minister to exercise a power or perform any function under a tax law.”

Mr Jeremenko says it seems somewhat ridiculous that the Treasurer himself cannot know how much revenue a specific tax is raising.

“I think it is certainly an absurd situation that a tax is raising an amount but, according to the Government, legal advice suggests that the law prevents the relevant minister, being the Treasurer, from knowing how much that tax is raising,” he added.

Mr Jeremenko says he would like to see the advice the Tax Office has provided to the Government about the privacy provisions.

“We need to see the high level advice that the Government is relying on, and that hasn’t been released but, on my reading of the tax law, it says quite clearly that disclosing information to any minister for the purposes of enabling them to exercise a power, perform a function under a tax law is allowed,” he said.

“Now that seems pretty cut and dry. I would imagine that the disclosure of the total MRRT tax take would fall within that.”

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, mining-industry, tax, australia

First posted January 21, 2013 14:51:04

Share market gains on mining rise


A rally in resources stocks and a strong lead from Wall Street are helping the Australian share market to gains of about 0.3 per cent.


The All Ordinaries Index was up 17 points to 4,796 just before 1:00pm (AEDT), and the ASX 200 was 16 points higher at 4,773.


Rio Tinto was up 3 per cent to $66.60, after its iron ore boss Sam Walsh was named as Tom Albanese’s successor for the chief executive role.


Shares in Fortescue Metals were 3.2 per cent higher.


The gold miner, St Barbara, had jumped 5 per cent to $1.45.


NAB was 20 cents higher at $26.24 and Commonwealth Bank shares were up 9 cents to $62.55.


Shares in JB Hi-Fi were down more than 0.8 per cent.


The Australian dollar was buying 105.33 US cents.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, markets, currency, stockmarket, australia

Pressure mounts on Labor over mining tax revenue


There is growing pressure on the Federal Government to reveal how much revenue the mining tax has raised despite Labor’s insistence that doing so is illegal.


The Coalition plans to move a motion in the Senate when Parliament returns next month, demanding the head of the Tax Office provide the Senate economics committee with details of revenue collections from the tax.


The Greens have also written to the Prime Minister, reminding her of her commitment to release those details by January 31.


“The Prime Minister promised transparency, well let’s see that transparency,” Greens leader Christine Milne told reporters in Hobart.


“If we’ve got nothing, as we had at the end of the first quarter, then you have to declare it a failure and you have to now fix it to make sure we start getting some of that revenue to invest in education, Denticare and disability.”


The Australian newspaper reported earlier this week that the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) had not produced any revenue for a second consecutive quarter, prompting the Coalition to demand the Government release details of revenue collections.


But Treasury advice provided to the Government, and shown to the ABC, backed the Tax Office’s view that releasing the data would breach the privacy provisions in the Taxation Administration Act.


“This is because it was obtained by the ATO for the purposes of a taxation law and relates to the affairs of a small number of entities and is ‘reasonably capable of being used to identify’ some or all of the entities concerned,” the Treasury minute stated.


Shadow assistant treasurer Mathias Cormann says he has since received advice from the Clerk of the Senate which shows that the privacy provisions in the tax laws do not prevent the information being provided to Parliament.


“Once that committee of the Senate has obtained the information on how much or how little the mining tax has raised, that committee would be entitled to publish that information,” Senator Cormann told ABC News.


He says it is a “ridiculous” situation to have a tax where the revenue collections are kept secret.


“The people of Australia are entitled to know whether the mining tax, which has been a very contentious tax for some time now, has raised any revenue at all, and if so how much.”


Senator Cormann says given the Greens’ voting record, he expects them to support his push for the details to be made public.


A spokeswoman for Acting Treasurer Penny Wong says it is a matter for the Senate to decide how it responds to the Clerk’s advice.


“We are acting on Treasury advice that is based on guidance from the ATO, which has been confirmed by the Australian Government Solicitor,” the spokeswoman said.


When the MRRT legislation was being debated in the Parliament, Ms Gillard wrote to the then Greens leader Bob Brown promising “transparency” in how the tax was performing.


“In order to provide confidence as to how the tax is playing out and the precise ways the revenue is collected, we will review resource rent taxes in order to publish monthly updates on revenue collections from these taxes,” Ms Gillard wrote.


Senator Milne has reiterated her belief that the mining tax needs changing to remove “loopholes” in the legislation. 


“I have said again to the Prime Minister, the Greens are prepared to work with her to block the loopholes so that we start to generate revenue from this tax in order to really be able to fund education, national disability and the like,” she said.


Ms Gillard renegotiated the mining tax with the three biggest miners – BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata – soon after she took over from Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister.


Mr Rudd said this week the revenue collections were “certainly disappointing” but added that people should wait until there was full year’s numbers before making a final judgment.

Topics: federal-government, federal-parliament, tax, mining-industry, australia

Mining stocks help market to strong close


The Australian share market held on to a 20-month high today, with mining stocks leading the charge.


The All Ordinaries index added 0.3 per cent to 4,795, while the ASX 200 index jumped 14 points to 4,771.


Rio Tinto shares jumped 2.7 per cent as investors welcomed the replacement of former chief executive Tom Albanese with iron ore boss Sam Walsh.


Mr Albanese’s shock resignation came as the company revealed a $US14 billion writedown against its Mozambique coal and aluminium businesses after the market closed yesterday.


Also in focus for resources investors was official data showing China emerged from a slowdown in the December quarter with an annual growth rate of 7.9 per cent.


BHP Billiton gained 0.4 per cent and Fortescue Metals added 3.2 per cent.


The big four banks were mixed; NAB jumped 1.2 per cent and the CBA ended flat near its all-time high at $62.46.


The Ten Network was among the biggest losers, closing down 6 per cent.


Telstra was unchanged at $4.48.


Around 5.00pm (AEDT) the Australian dollar was down against the greenback, buying 105.23 US cents.


Spot gold prices were worth $US1,691 an ounce and West Texas Intermediate crude oil was up at $US95.49 a barrel.

Topics: stockmarket, markets, business-economics-and-finance, currency, australia

First posted January 18, 2013 17:56:12

Regulation changes to save mining jobs: Newman


Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says changes to mining laws will help save jobs and investment in the state’s north west.


The state’s unemployment rate has risen from 6.1 per cent to 6.2 per cent in December.


The proportion of the state’s working age population in work or looking for work has dropped to 66 per cent.


Mr Newman has told Mt Isa’s business community that reducing mining regulation and reversing a ban on uranium will help the north west.


He also wants to bring back plans to create a special mining region but does not have any new funding announcements.


“I’m not a politician who runs around sprinkling fairy dust,” he said.


He says that is not because people voted for Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) which holds the federal and state seats in the north west.


“As a government we listen to all the members, all the 89 members of Parliament,” Mr Newman said.


“We don’t say ‘oh it’s the Katter party so they’ll get nothing’ – that is something that’s outrageous, that’s anathema to me.”


He says as the state’s finances get back on a more stable footing more money will be handed back to regional areas.


“I can assure people locally that we’re totally committed to do that and we know that people in regional areas have been neglected,” Mr Newman said.


“That has ended with this government, with the Royalties for Regions program and as we get more money in state coffers we’ll be able to put more money back into the state program.”


The Premier’s visit includes a tour of the Mount Isa mine which is the region’s largest employer.


Mayor Tony McGrady has been a vocal advocate for uranium mining, and the business community is hoping the government’s decision to lift the ban on mining will stimulate the north west’s economy.


Councillor McGrady is a former Labor Minister, but he says the Premier’s plans will help the region.


“Right around the area there’s potential deposits of uranium,” he said.


“It’s a great time to be living in places like Mount Isa.”


It is Mr Newman’s first visit to the city in almost two years.


He says he would like to spend more time in the region and – undoubtedly would like to reduce the influence of KAP.

Topics: uranium-mining, state-parliament, liberal-national-party-queensland, government-and-politics, minor-parties, mount-isa-4825, longreach-4730, qld

First posted January 17, 2013 10:09:02

S Africa mining firm ‘arrogant’

 A group of miners gathered at one of Amplats’ shafts to protest against the cuts A South African official has called the world’s biggest platinum producer “arrogant” after it announced plans to cut 14,000 jobs and shut four shafts.


Mining Minister Susan Shabangu said Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) had not consulted properly with the government on the production cuts.


As a result, it was putting its mining licence in jeopardy, she told South African radio.


Amplats denied the claim and said the cuts were needed to stop losses.


The price of platinum – a precious metal used in the production of car catalytic converters – was 10% lower on average in 2012 compared with 2011.


However, the price has rebounded since the New Year on concern about supply disruptions in South Africa, where 80% of the metal is mined.

‘Playing games’

Workers at three Amplats mines in the Rustenburg region of South Africa, where most of the jobs are expected to go, downed tools in protest against the cuts on Wednesday, although only one of the three mines affected has been earmarked for closure.


Over 50 people were killed in strikes and unrest by miners in South Africa last year.


Amplats, which is majority-owned by London-listed mining group Anglo American, plans to cease production at four loss-making mine shafts in Rustenburg.


Shares in Amplats fell 6.8% on the news on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, while in London, Anglo American shares dropped 2.4%.


The company said it would balance the 14,000 mining jobs that it plans to shed by creating a similar number of new jobs in housing, infrastructure and small business development.


The mining firm stressed the announcement was the start of a consultation process in which it would be speaking to the government and the unions.


Amplats chief executive Chris Griffiths explained the move: “By creating a sustainable, competitive and profitable business, we will be in a stronger position to continue substantial investment, provide more secure and stable employment, and to benefit our customers, suppliers, shareholders… and the South African economy as a whole.”


Under South African law, companies must hold a 60-day consultation process before cutting a large number of jobs.


“[The regulation] says we need consultation, not on the basis of time-frames but on the basis of trying to find a solution for all of us. Amplats continues to be arrogant and undermining stakeholders… They’ve been playing games with us.” Susan Shabangu told the South African Broadcasting Corporation.


“How do they expect us to participate… because they have finalised everything,” the minister added.

ERA aims for underground uranium mining by 2015


The company behind a proposed underground uranium mine in the Northern Territory says it hopes to start operations within two years.


Energy Resources Australia (ERA) has commenced its statutory approval process for an underground mine near Jabiru, inside Kakadu National Park.


Chief executive Rob Atkinson says ERA has submitted plans to the Federal Government and the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority for assessment.


“Those will then provide us guidelines for the next stage of the approval process,” he said.


A two-kilometre tunnel, 300 metres underground, would replace the existing open-cut Ranger uranium mine.


Environment Centre NT spokeswoman Cat Beaton is calling for a full environmental impact statement on the proposed underground mine.


“We are very concerned about the waste that will be created,” she said.

Topics: uranium-mining, mining-environmental-issues, jabiru-0886

Job cuts at north-west mining firm

Posted December 21, 2012 15:50:56

A Burnie-based mining equipment manufacturer has laid off dozens of labour hire workers, due to a downturn in global demand.

Caterpillar Underground Mining would not give an exact figure, but says it has made a ‘modest’ reduction of fewer than 40 contractors.

The business employs about 500 workers. None of its permanent staff are affected.

Managing director Dan Barich says customer demand is not meeting projections.

“We are a global manufacturer that ship around the world so we are dependent on the economic situation going on in Europe, the fiscal cliff and what’s going to happen going on in the US, and certainly the growth curve that was planned versus what’s going on in China,” he said.

Affected workers are being offered support.

“We have been providing local counsellors, local help,” he said.

“We have engaged all of the leadership with the local agencies to help all the employees through this time.”

Topics: manufacturing, company-news, burnie-7320

Market ends flat after mining losses


The Australian share market has finished flat, with the mining sector and telcos among the bigger losers.


The All Ordinaries Index lost three points to close at 4,443, while the ASX 200 index also fell three points to 4,717.


The big miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto each fell around 0.1 per cent, while Fortescue Metals Group fell 1.9 per cent.


Rio had traded close to 1 per cent lower but its share price recovered after the company released its latest quarterly update, showing better results than had been predicted.


Rio says it achieved record iron ore production and shipments from its Pilbara operations last year.


It produced 199 million tonnes of iron ore during 2012 – a 4 per cent increase on the year before.


Rio’s iron ore production for the December quarter was 52 million tonnes, 2 per cent up on the same period in 2011.


Telstra also weighed on the market as it fell 1.3 per cent.


There was a mixed performance from the big four banks, with Westpac falling 0.5 per cent and NAB 0.1 per cent, while the Commonwealth and ANZ each rose about 0.2 per cent.


Retailers were a bright spot for the market, led by a surge from surfwear company Billabong after it announced yet another takeover offer.


Billabong shares closed nearly 16 per cent higher at 98 cents after the offer from a US consortium led by private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners and VF Corporation.


Harvey Norman rallied 1.3 per cent, David Jones rose 0.1 per cent and rival Myer ended the day flat.


JB Hi-Fi was among one of the few disappointments in the retail sector and there were also overseas signs of the problems faced by shops selling hardcopy CDs and DVDs.


Global music retailer HMV announced it was suspending its shares on the London Stock Exchange and has called in Deloitte as administrators because the company’s sales were not enough to meet its debt obligations.


More than 4,000 jobs are on the line, mostly in the UK but also in Hong Kong and Singapore.


HMV’s last Australian store closed in 2010.


Shortly before 5pm (AEDT) the Australian dollar was buying around 105.52 US cents , 78.99 euro cents, 65.64 British pence and $NZ1.25.


West Texas crude oil was worth around $US94.10 a barrel and Tapis crude was selling for about $US116.60 a barrel.


Spot gold was around $US1,671.80 an ounce.

Topics: markets, business-economics-and-finance, currency, australia

Govt cannot reveal mining tax take: Wong


The Federal Government says privacy considerations prevent it from disclosing how much mining tax has been paid, if any.


It is unclear whether the tax has raised any money in the first six months of its operation.


The Australian newspaper reported yesterday that for the second consecutive quarter BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata will not have to pay the tax.


The Government and big miners are refusing to confirm whether any tax has been paid, although Rio Tinto said it had not spoken to The Australian.


Finance Minister Penny Wong says the Australian Tax Office has advised the Government not to reveal its mining tax earnings if it might breach Commonwealth privacy provisions relating to the release of information about individual taxpayers.


Penny Wong says she already provides financial updates on resource rent taxes, and there are privacy risks with isolating mining tax revenue because it only applies to a small number of companies.


“What we can’t do is breach privacy provisions, and the Australian Tax office has advised we’re not in a position to provide details of the MRRT if that would breach privacy provisions,” she said.


The Opposition and crossbenchers are demanding transparency.


Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey says Ms Wong should be able to provide an answer without breaching the privacy of individual companies.


“She wasn’t being asked about individual taxpayers, she was being asked about whether the mining tax was raising a dollar – a single dollar,” he told 2GB radio in Sydney.


“Now she has to answer those questions, but she won’t.”


Federal independent MP Rob Oakeshott says if the mining tax is not raising any money now, it never will.


Mr Oakeshott says he would be very surprised if there is not substantial revenue raised from the tax by the May budget, given the current turnaround in iron ore prices.


“They have come back and they are very healthy,” he said.


“This MRRT has to be working now and if it’s not working now it never will.”


However, on Twitter, Labor MP and former economics professor Andrew Leigh explained to Mr Oakeshott that even if the miners are making substantial profits, deductions for the cost of building and expanding their mines might be completely offsetting their mining tax bills in the early stages of the tax.


“MRRT=(Profit-$75M)*22.5%. In investment phase, costs are high, so profits may not exceed $75M,” Mr Leigh tweeted.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, coal, iron-ore, mining-industry, tax, australia

First posted January 15, 2013 14:04:13

Report suggests still no revenue from mining tax


The Coalition is demanding the Federal Government reveals how much revenue the mining tax has raised amid reports it has generated no revenue for a second consecutive quarter.


The Australian newspaper has today reported that none of the country’s three biggest miners – BHP Billiton, Xstrata or Rio Tinto – will make payments when second quarter instalments are due next Monday.


The Government has declined to comment on the revenue figures, with a spokesman for Acting Treasurer Penny Wong saying: “It’s no secret that our budget revenues have already taken a big hit from the impact of continued global instability, commodity price volatility and the high dollar.”


The companies involved are saying little, with BHP noting the market situation has changed considerably since the mining tax was designed in 2010.


“The Australian dollar and commodity prices in particular have experienced significant volatility over this period and these have a direct bearing on MRRT payable,” a company spokesman said.


The latest budget figures released last month show the Government received $1.1 billion in resource rent taxes (including both the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax) between July and the end of October, but it did not provide a breakdown of the figure.



The mining tax secrecy must stop. People deserve to know how much or how little the Government has raised.

Shadow assistant treasurer Mathias Cormann

In the 2012-13 budget, the Government predicted the mining tax would raise $3 billion, although that was later revised down to $2 billion.


The Coalition has described the tax as a failure, because it is costing tens of millions of dollars to administer while not raising any revenue.


“He’s supposed to be have been collecting the revenue for more than six months, [but] he’s refused to tell us how much or how little he has collected,” shadow assistant treasurer Mathias Cormann told ABC News.


“So what we’re saying, the mining tax secrecy must stop. People deserve to know how much or how little the Government has raised, in particular given the Government has already committed all of the money they thought it would raise and more.”


The Greens have long argued for changes to the design of the tax so that it applies to more companies and more resources.


“Let’s wait and see until we actually get the figures in next week, but whatever they are it won’t be enough,” Greens leader Christine Milne told reporters in Hobart.



We need to raise revenue in Australia. We need to plug the loopholes in the mining tax so that we do have the money to increase Newstart, to fund the Gonski review into education, to fund Denticare.


“We need to raise revenue in Australia. We need to plug the loopholes in the mining tax so that we do have the money to increase Newstart, to fund the Gonski review into education, to fund Denticare.”


There has been a steady recovery in the spot price of iron ore over recent weeks, prompting speculation it may help reverse the Government’s budget problems.


But a spokesman for Senator Wong said: “As the Treasurer said on a number of occasions, people should be cautious about putting all their faith in numbers that are based on a day’s, week’s or month’s spot prices for our resources.”


Late last year, Treasurer Wayne Swan announced it was “unlikely” the Government would be able to deliver a budget surplus this financial year, despite repeatedly promising to do so.


He pointed to declining tax revenues and lower-than-expected commodity prices.


Mr Swan recently wrote to some ministers, asking them to find further spending cuts given the need to pay for other expensive promises including a National Disability Insurance Scheme and an overhaul of school funding.

Topics: mining-industry, federal-government, tax, budget, australia

First posted January 14, 2013 14:20:25

Report suggests still no revenue from mining tax


The Coalition is demanding the Federal Government reveals how much revenue the mining tax has raised amid reports it has generated no revenue for a second consecutive quarter.


The Australian newspaper has today reported that none of the country’s three biggest miners – BHP Billiton, Xstrata or Rio Tinto – will make payments when second quarter instalments are due next Monday.


The Government has declined to comment on the revenue figures, with a spokesman for Acting Treasurer Penny Wong saying: “It’s no secret that our budget revenues have already taken a big hit from the impact of continued global instability, commodity price volatility and the high dollar.”


The companies involved are saying little, with BHP noting the market situation has changed considerably since the mining tax was designed in 2010.


“The Australian dollar and commodity prices in particular have experienced significant volatility over this period and these have a direct bearing on MRRT payable,” a company spokesman said.


The latest budget figures released last month show the Government received $1.1 billion in resource rent taxes (including both the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax) between July and the end of October, but it did not provide a breakdown of the figure.



The mining tax secrecy must stop. People deserve to know how much or how little the Government has raised.

Shadow assistant treasurer Mathias Cormann

In the 2012-13 budget, the Government predicted the mining tax would raise $3 billion, although that was later revised down to $2 billion.


The Coalition has described the tax as a failure, because it is costing tens of millions of dollars to administer while not raising any revenue.


“He’s supposed to be have been collecting the revenue for more than six months, [but] he’s refused to tell us how much or how little he has collected,” shadow assistant treasurer Mathias Cormann told ABC News.


“So what we’re saying, the mining tax secrecy must stop. People deserve to know how much or how little the Government has raised, in particular given the Government has already committed all of the money they thought it would raise and more.”


The Greens have long argued for changes to the design of the tax so that it applies to more companies and more resources.


“Let’s wait and see until we actually get the figures in next week, but whatever they are it won’t be enough,” Greens leader Christine Milne told reporters in Hobart.



We need to raise revenue in Australia. We need to plug the loopholes in the mining tax so that we do have the money to increase Newstart, to fund the Gonski review into education, to fund Denticare.


“We need to raise revenue in Australia. We need to plug the loopholes in the mining tax so that we do have the money to increase Newstart, to fund the Gonski review into education, to fund Denticare.”


There has been a steady recovery in the spot price of iron ore over recent weeks, prompting speculation it may help reverse the Government’s budget problems.


But a spokesman for Senator Wong said: “As the Treasurer said on a number of occasions, people should be cautious about putting all their faith in numbers that are based on a day’s, week’s or month’s spot prices for our resources.”


Late last year, Treasurer Wayne Swan announced it was “unlikely” the Government would be able to deliver a budget surplus this financial year, despite repeatedly promising to do so.


He pointed to declining tax revenues and lower-than-expected commodity prices.


Mr Swan recently wrote to some ministers, asking them to find further spending cuts given the need to pay for other expensive promises including a National Disability Insurance Scheme and an overhaul of school funding.

Topics: mining-industry, federal-government, tax, budget, australia

First posted January 14, 2013 14:20:25

Figures show mining approvals take two years

Posted December 11, 2012 10:19:07

The Department of Mines has released figures showing it takes an average of just over two years for a new mining project in Western Australia to reach final approval.

The average was reached after assessing about 1,100 mining proposals over the past four years.

The figure has been released to counter industry criticism that approval timelines have blown out to five years, making WA a less competitive place to develop projects.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy welcomes the progress that has been made.

The Wilderness Society’s Peter Robertson says approval times have been reduced by cutting corners.

“The recent furore over fracking for example demonstrates that the Department of Mines and the Minister for Mines are in a huge rush to approve all kinds of mining projects, both onshore and offshore, in all parts of WA without adequate safeguards, without adequate assessments,” he said.

He says more should be done to protect the environment.

“WA should uphold the strictest standards because our environment is already under enormous pressure,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be cutting corners and we shouldn’t be fast-tracking approvals because we’ve already done so much damage and we’ve learnt very little from it.”

Topics: mining-industry, broome-6725, karratha-6714, perth-6000, kalgoorlie-6430, geraldton-6530, albany-6330

Struggling growers find fruits of labour in mining

Updated December 05, 2012 19:29:09

The mining boom has thrown an unexpected lifeline to struggling fruit growers in South Australia.

To pay the bills, some growers have become fly-in-fly-out mine workers.

The steady salaries and predictable shifts have delivered some much needed stability for families struggling to stay on the land in South Australia’s Riverland region.

State Member for Chaffey, Tim Whetstone, says low fruit prices, high input costs and lingering debt, have prompted many to consider the mining industry.

“They see this pot of gold in the mining arena and they chase it. I would like to think we retain those people and keep that pot of gold here,” he said.

Mr Whetstone says he hopes the Riverland can service the needs of the mining industry, without losing its local population.

“We’ve got that expertise in delivering what the mining industry is needing,” he said.

“There will be shortages of employment and that expertise, and if this region can actually sell itself to the mining industry, we can retain that skill base.”

Lindsay Tyler was a fruit grower, packer and semi-trailer driver, but was struggling to make a living. Now, he is a truck driver at Roxby Downs in the north of the state.

“I had never lived away from my wife in nearly 28 years of marriage. So the biggest challenge was being 700, 800 kilometres away without my family,” he said.

Mr Tyler drives to Adelaide and then flies to Roxby every two weeks.

It is disruptive for his wife and family, but he says it is a lot better than when he was working long hours as a semi-trailer driver.

“Apparently I used to snap at the children a lot after a week away, you’d be that stressed and tensed. Now I’m just more relaxed and a lot happier,” he said.

Ben Haslett, the spokesman for Riverland Communities, says he is confident of the future of the region, but says some growers are finding it hard to hang on.

“I think that’s true, and obviously there are people lured by the mining game. And families, farming families especially, tend to work right down to the bone before they move onto something else, before they are forced to react,” he said.

Mr Haslett says input costs have risen sharply for some growers in the Riverland, especially for the electricity needed to drive irrigation pumps.

“Some of the larger irrigating bodies around this area have seen over the past three years up to a 100 per cent increase in their power price, which is massive in anyone’s language,” he said.

The economic downturn is felt in the towns of the Riverland too.

Primary production is the biggest single industry in the region and local unemployment is 2 per cent higher than the South Australian average.

Val Fewster, a member of the local suicide prevention group, says it has put a strain on the community.

“I think it’s very, very difficult at the moment, right across the region, but I still think it’s a beautiful place to live,” she said.

“And I think the blockies and the farmers, I think they, as difficult as what it has been and is for them, we will see them come through at the other side.”

The race to make a living has changed daily life for many families.

Shirley Tyler takes on the role of a single parent while her husband is away at the mines, but she says it is better than their old life on a fruit block.

Around 300 people leave the region for mining industry and mining industry related work opportunity each per annum.

Now that represents slightly less than 3 per cent of the total workforce in this part of the region.

Brenton Lewis, from Regional Development Australia

“It was very unpredictable and we didn’t see a lot of him. And when he did come home he ate and he went to sleep,” she said.

Her son Ashley is preparing for a swimming squad trip to Sydney. Last year, he was unable to go because the family could not afford it.

“It wasn’t possible at that time for us to send him there. There was just no way we could have done it financially,” Ms Tyler said.

The average wage and salary income in the Riverland is only $34,000 a year, well below the big salaries of the mines.

The scrapping of the proposed expansion of Olympic Dam in South Australia has clouded some of the optimism, but Brenton Lewis, from Regional Development Australia, says for many, mining is still an offer too good to refuse.

“Around 300 people leave the region for mining industry and mining industry-related work opportunity each year. Now that represents slightly less than 3 per cent of the total workforce in this part of the region,” he said.

The worry is that it may only be a short-term fix to long-term problems in the Riverland.

While some fruit growers have taken to the mines, their fruit blocks are still marginal.

Jeff McDonald, from Riverland Lending, says there are still many challenges ahead.

“I tend to add one comment on there is that they are buying time and at some stage if nothing changes, you’ve got to wonder if someone was going to look at their position in 10 years’ time and they were going to be poorer than they are today, you’ve got to wonder why they do it,” he said.

Topics: fruits, agricultural-crops, rural, farm-labour, mining-industry, loxton-5333, renmark-5341, sa, australia

First posted December 05, 2012 19:20:37

Horizontal Falls to be protected from mining

Updated December 05, 2012 21:53:52

Mining activity has been banned at the Horizontal Falls in the west Kimberley.

The Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore says the creation of a mining exclusion zone will protect the tourist attraction for years to come.

The falls are created by extreme tides causing water to rush through two narrow gaps, and are considered a unique geographical formation.

The Section 19 order prohibits mining or exploration in a 72-square kilometre area around the popular tourist attraction.

Local charter companies, tourism operators and conservationists were angered last year when a copper mining company started exploration drilling in the area.

Several companies have voluntarily withdrawn their applications to explore, while another has stopped its drilling.

Mr Moore says the companies were supportive.

“We said to them we felt there would be some significant problems for them in the future if they wanted to persist with applications to mine which would in any way affect the Horizontal Falls,” he said.

“And, as a result they were very comfortable coming back to the Government and saying well we agree with what you want to do and we’ll withdraw our applications.”

Mr Moore says the mining ban will be reviewed every two years.

“In the meantime, the Government will look at what form of protection is most appropriate into the future, so that we determine once and for all what tenure should apply over the Horizontal Falls,” he said.

“By protecting that area I think we’re doing the right thing.”

The Minister says more permanent protection will be investigated.

Topics: tourism, copper, derby-6728

First posted December 05, 2012 15:38:16

Mining, utility stocks drag local market down

Posted December 04, 2012 19:52:49

The share market has closed lower, dragged down by losses in mining and utility stocks.

The market struggled from the open, but extended losses in late trade after the Reserve Bank eased the official interest rate by 25 basis points to equal its record low of 3 per cent.

The All Ordinaries fell 0.6 per cent to finish at 4,512 and the ASX 200 matched that loss, down to 4,504.

Bank shares were in focus after the rates decision; NAB lost 0.2 per cent to $24.25, and the remaining big three each lost around 0.5 per cent.

Retail shares had a mixed reaction to the Christmas rate cut; David Jones added 0.4 per cent and Myer finished flat, but there were steeper losses for other consumer exposed companies.

Turning to the mining sector; Fortescue Metals slid 2.4 per cent to $3.67.

BHP Billiton lost 0.8 per cent, Rio Tinto fell 0.2 per cent.

Graincorp was among the top performers today. It closed up 3.2 per cent to $12.32 after its US suitor, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), boosted its takeover offer for the grain handling company.

The US food giant is now offering $12.20 a share for the last independent grain handler left in Australia.

ADM also increased its stake in Graincorp to just below the 20 per cent level, at which it would have to make a formal bid for the whole company.

And this week’s rush of data continues to paint a weak picture of Australia’s economy.

Bureau of Statistics figures show the current account slid further into deficit in the September quarter, driven by a 5 per cent fall in exports of goods and services.

The deficit rose by 20 per cent to $14.9 billion, which was slightly worse than expected.

And building approvals dropped sharply in October, down 7.6 per cent.

In currency trade, the dollar jumped after the Reserve Bank cut the official interest rate, but has since settled slightly.

Just before 5:30pm (AEDT) it was buying 104.4 US cents, 80 Euro cents, 85.7 Japanese yen and 64.9 British pence.

In commodity trade, spot gold was down to $US1,702 an ounce.

West Texas crude oil was slightly lower at $US88.70 a barrel and Tapis crude was worth $US115.50 a barrel.

Topics: stockmarket, markets, business-economics-and-finance, australia

ICAC hears of attempts to conceal mining links

Posted December 04, 2012 18:08:18

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has again heard of various attempts to conceal the links former New South Wales Labor ministers had to mining projects.

The inquiry has heard the Obeid family and its associates purchased properties in the coal rich Bylong Valley area of the Upper Hunter and also had a secret stake in companies that were awarded coal exploration licences.

Lawyer Philip Podzebenko said a director of mining company White Energy became angry at a 2011 meeting to discuss a $500 million coal deal with Cascade Coal.

He said after being unable to get straight answers about the Obeids’ involvement in Cascade Coal the director stormed out of the room

The deal later fell through.

Another witness, Warwick Grigor denied a “cover up” over the Obeid family’s involvement in a mining company.

He said it was instead an “incomplete disclosure”.

The ICAC also heard that RAMS Home Loans founder John Kinghorn held shares in a coal company on trust for Greg Jones, a friend of former NSW mining minister Ian Macdonald.

The inquiry is likely to run for up to five months, with Ian Macdonald and Eddie Obeid expected to give evidence in January.

Commissioner David Ipp has adjourned the inquiry until Thursday.

Topics: corruption, mining-industry, nsw

Obeid’s mining interests disguised, ICAC told

Posted December 03, 2012 17:07:33

The ICAC has heard former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid’s interests in mining licences were disguised to avoid any hint of corruption.

Commissioner David Ipp is investigating allegations Mr Obeid and his family tried to hide their involvement in mining projects that stood to make them a $100 million profit.

The Obeids are accused of having inside knowledge leaked from the office of former mining minister Ian Macdonald.

Former Obeid family lawyer Sevag Chalabian admitted that a series of companies were set up to hide the Obeid family name being associated with Cascade Coal, which won the tender for Mt Penny in the Bylong Valley.

Mr Ipp was told the family still owns a 9.3 per cent stake in Cascade Coal.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) also heard Cascade Coal directors Richard Poole and John McGuigan had concerns about the Obeid family’s association with the company being made public.

It heard the Obeids had secret interests in two companies granted coal licences in 2009.

Another witness, Neil Whittaker, the chief executive of River Energy, told the hearing he could not recall much about a letter with a false company letterhead and his signature on it.

Mr Whittaker, a former National Rugby League (NRL) chief executive and former Krispy Kreme executive, was asked if he signed the document.

He eventually admitted that he did.

“I can’t recall who asked me to sign it,” Mr Whittaker said.

Frustrated with the time Mr Whittaker took to answer questions, the counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson, at one point snapped at him: “You must have spoken to some human being to get this information.”

Mr Obeid and Mr Macdonald are yet to give evidence.

Topics: corruption, mining-industry, courts-and-trials, nsw

Minister defends Tarkine mining role

Posted November 19, 2012 11:39:04

Tasmania’s Resources Minister has defended his position on mining in the Tarkine region in the state’s far north-west.

About 3,000 people attended a rally in Burnie on Saturday calling for the area not to given National Heritage listing.

Resources Minister Bryan Green and Premier Lara Giddings were booed as they tried to address the crowd.

Mr Green told ABC Local Radio Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke would make the final decision on mining proposals.

“I think when I stood up people were somehow construing that I had a role to play with respect to making a decision,” he said.

“My role, as I tried to explain to people, is to facilitate mining in Tasmania and we’ve done that by investing tens of millions of dollars in three dimensional mapping of our mineralised areas.”

The Tasmanian Greens have accused the Australian Workers Union (AWU) of exploiting people’s fears in their push for mining in the area.

Greens MP Paul O’Halloran said pro-mining lobby groups had used divisive tactics.

“I think it’s actually creating fears and building on people’s insecurities and it’s creating divisions and I don’t think it’s healthy,” he said.

“What we need to do is we need an intelligent conversation to look at a way forward that will deliver sustainable jobs both now and into the future.”

The AWU’s Paul Howes said the Greens’ comments showed how out of touch they were.

“To insult those 3,500 people shows the utter contempt that the Greens hold for working class Tasmanian’s and industries like mining and forestry.”

Burnie mayor and former state Labor minister, Steve Kons, said the big turnout proves there is massive support for mining in the Tarkine.

He accused the Greens of lacking the ability to create jobs and of wrecking forestry.

Australian Greens Leader, Christine Milne, believes the Tarkine is missing out on the economic benefits of Tasmania’s eco-tourism brand.

“The north-west is missing out on that because they don’t have an iconic tourism venue and that’s why tourists aren’t going there,” she said.

“The Tarkine offers a fantastic opportunity to link the north-west to the rest of the state for all those brand benefits.”

Topics: mining-environmental-issues, mining-industry, states-and-territories, activism-and-lobbying, waratah-7321, tas

Native title rights not ended by mining leases

Updated November 06, 2012 14:17:26

The Federal Court has ruled in favour of traditional owners over miners following a five-year native title dispute in the Pilbara.

In 2007, the Ngarla people were granted a native title claim covering thousands of square kilometres of land and water in the East Pilbara.

But, there was a dispute over whether a mining lease had completely extinguished native title rights.

The full Federal Court has now ruled the Ngarla people do retain their native title rights on land when mining has ended.

The Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation’s Simon Hawkins says it is a significant win.

“What it’s actually saying is that mining interests and pastoral interests are obviously leases, and tenements; they’re not there forever and don’t extinguish rights and interests,” he said.

“So, that means when the mining activities ceases, which [they] will do at some point, the traditional rights and interests of the Ngarla people will then be able to be utilised fully again.”

Mr Hawkins says it has been an arduous process.

“The other issue, which is quite frustrating, is that the State Government has pursued this matter and actually caused a lot of litigation around an issue that actually should not have occurred this way,” he said.

The State Government says it is assessing the wider implications of the decision.

Topics: indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, mining-industry, karratha-6714, perth-6000, nt

First posted November 06, 2012 10:40:41

Gillard rejects Greens advice on mining tax

Updated November 03, 2012 20:49:58

The Federal Government has flatly dismissed efforts by the Greens to increase budget revenue from the mining tax.

The Greens have used their 20th national conference in Sydney to spruik their economic agenda.

Greens leader Christine Milne urged the Federal Government to delay the budget surplus.

They have also commissioned costings data which reveal that a 40 per cent increase in the Minerals Resource Rent Tax would increase budget revenue by $26 billion over four years.

“If we invested it wisely we could lift Newstart, we could make sure we ploughed that money into education,” Ms Milne said.

But Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she will not be heeding the Greens advice.

“We have implemented the mining tax that we believe is the right one for the nation,” she said.

Senator Milne says Ms Gillard’s refusal proves she has caved in to the mining industry.

“At the moment the mining tax is securing zero, it’s projected to secure $9 billion, well we could take that out to $26 billion,” she said.

“So this goes to the heart of the Prime Minister’s claims to be the great negotiator, she negotiated a tax that has resulted in zero in the first three months.”

The Greens conference also canvassed the party’s core policies towards the environment, Indigenous recognition and same-sex marriage.

Topics: mining-industry, tax, government-and-politics, federal-government, greens, australia

First posted November 03, 2012 16:49:39

Uranium transport debate begins amid Qld mining plans

Updated October 31, 2012 14:54:58

Plans to get Queensland’s uranium industry up and running have sparked debate over how the ore will be exported.

The Queensland Government has established a five-person committee to determine the rules and regulations for the industry, including its transport.

The ports nearest the state’s uranium deposits sit right next to the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

Queensland’s uranium deposits are in the state’s north and the nearest ports are Townsville and Cairns.

Both are major tourism destinations and gateways to the Great Barrier Reef.

But chairman of the committee appointed to help Queensland’s uranium industry, Paul Bell, says both ports could be used to export the radioactive material.

“We haven’t seen any significant reaction to any of the options that we’ve probably started to look at in regards to ports – the way in which uranium transport would be carried out in Queensland,” he said.

“It’s still very early days and we think that all options should be certainly investigated.”

Queensland Resources Council spokesman Michael Roche says the state should follow Western Australia’s lead and ship it from Darwin or Adelaide instead.

“Given that the Adelaide-Darwin railway is not too long a reasonable haul from the north-west of Queensland, then it makes sense that uranium could be transported to that rail line and then sent north to Darwin or south to Adelaide,” he said.

In the next four-and-a-half-months the committee will visit uranium projects in the Northern Territory and South Australia to gather information.

Mr Bell says sending Queensland’s uranium interstate for shipping is an option.

“The discussion we’ll be having with governments from Northern Territory and South Australia will be about how do you feel about more tonnage coming through your place,” he said.

“Is that something that you would support or would you see some reluctance and therefore giving us, I suppose, impetus to come back and to certainly have some further discussions with ports here in Queensland?”

Conservationists have slammed the decision to reintroduce uranium mining in Queensland, arguing the environmental risks far outweigh the economic benefits.

But Mr Roche says the state’s known uranium resources are currently valued at $10 billion.

He says that could creep up to $18 billion if uranium prices improve as expected in the next three to five years.

Mr Roche says any mines are at least four years away from operation but the state should consider following the Western Australia Government and setting its uranium royalties at 5 per cent.

“That’s the sort of rate that would be competitive,” he said.

“Any higher than that, then you’re starting to discourage investment.

“Queensland at the end of the day will be competing for projects in Australia as well as in other jurisdictions such as in Canada.”

The committee is expected to report back to the Queensland Government in March.

Topics: public-sector, activism-and-lobbying, uranium-mining, state-parliament, mining-rural, mining-industry, mining-environmental-issues, trade, brisbane-4000, townsville-4810, mount-isa-4825, cairns-4870, darwin-0800

First posted October 31, 2012 08:59:29

High Court agrees to hear mining tax challenge

Updated November 05, 2012 17:48:32

The full bench of the High Court is set to hear a constitutional challenge to the Federal Government’s Minerals Resource Rent Tax as early as March.

Miners, led by the Fortescue Metals Group, have asked the court to consider the constitutional challenge on the basis the tax discriminates between states and restricts their ability to encourage mining.

In a directions hearing last month, lawyers for the group were asked to clarify their arguments before the case could be considered.

Today, Chief Justice Robert French agreed the case could now be heard by the full bench.

No date has been set, but Chief Justice French says he believes the two-day case could be run in the March sittings next year.

The Queensland and West Australian governments are intervening in the case.

Falling commodity prices mean the Government’s income from the profits-based tax, which applies to coal and iron ore, is well short of projections so far.

Topics: courts-and-trials, mining-industry, federal-government, australia

First posted November 05, 2012 15:33:05

Mining tax evil, says Fortescue founder

Updated November 16, 2012 12:00:23

The founder and chairman of Fortescue Metals says his company’s High Court challenge to the Federal Government’s mining tax is a case of good versus evil.

Andrew Forrest has told Radio National that taxes that discriminate against individual states are unconstitutional, and he is confident his legal team will prove that in the High Court.

“Our enthusiasm to run this case is because we believe it’s fundamentally unconstitutional – it interferes in the rights of states,” Mr Forrest said.

“I really can’t add anything further but to say it should be challenged, and all it takes for evil to conquer is for good people to do nothing, and we’ve decided to not be one of the ones to do nothing.”

Mr Forrest also warned that Australia should not become complacent about its relationship with China, particularly in the supply of key resources such as iron ore.

Mr Forrest says he has met China’s incoming president, Xi Jinping, who has said he plans to ensure the country’s prosperity reaches every citizen.

“He intends to build up that economy to eradicate any major measurable poverty in China,” Mr Forrest said.

“That’s got to be great for Australia. We need to knuckle down and take advantage of that opportunity and not let other countries supply those services and supply those resources, which they can if we take that Chinese relationship for granted.”

Yesterday, Fortescue Metals announced it had taken a $4.2 million stake in the Melbourne-based oil and gas company, Oil Basins, which operates in WA’s Canning Basin.

It is the company’s first investment outside iron ore.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, iron-ore, mining-industry, australia, wa

First posted November 16, 2012 11:41:11

Seabed mining moratorium could end sooner

Posted November 12, 2012 17:30:40

The Northern Territory Mines and Energy Minister says he expects a final decision on the future of seabed mining before a moratorium expires in 2015.

Willem Westra Van Holthe is visiting Groote Eylandt with the Chief Minister Terry Mills to discuss traditional owners’ concerns about applications to mine the seabed.

The previous Labor government announced a three-year moratorium on seabed mining earlier this year.

Mr Van Holthe says he expects an agreement will be negotiated with traditional owners before the three-year moratorium expires.

“Currently the moratorium exists for three years and I would expect that we would be able to negotiate through this and come up with final resolutions before the expiration of three years,” he said.

“But certainly for the moment the moratorium stays in place until we can conduct all of the inquiries that we need to in coming for a final decision.”

Topics: mining-industry, government-and-politics, alyangula-0885

Goa mining ban to affect service tax

Panaji: The ban on mining in Goa will seriously affect service tax collection in the state, a top central taxman said here Saturday.

Speaking at a seminar on taxation, Commissioner of Customs and Central Excise V.P.C. Rao said that the central agency’s plans to collect Rs5 billion (Dh350 million) service tax in the current fiscal would be an “uphill task”.

“This year collection of service tax will be severely affected due to the problem in several mining-related sectors which includes extraction as well as transportation of ore through inland waterways, which are a major source of service tax in Goa,” Rao said.

Rao said that over 6,000 industries come under the service tax bracket in Goa, but the ban on mining and the subsequent fallout would go a long way to show how critical mining or iron ore is to Goa’s economy.

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“One will now understand the importance of mining for Goa. It is almost like bread and butter [to the state economy]. I don’t know when the dust will settle. But the earlier the better. I wish that way,” Rao said.

The Supreme Court earlier this month banned mining operations in Goa, after a judicial commission appointed by the parliament unearthed a Rs350 billion scam in which politicians, bureaucrats and mining companies were linked.

Newman lifts uranium mining ban in Queensland

By Eric Tlozek and Bridget SmithUpdated October 22, 2012 15:13:17

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has announced he is ending the state’s decades-long ban on uranium mining.

The State Government decision reverses the position Mr Newman’s Liberal National Party took to the election in March.

Uranium has not been mined in Queensland since the closure of the Mary Kathleen mine in the state’s north-west in 1982.

State Cabinet made the decision while meeting today in the southern border town of Goondiwindi.

The Queensland Resources Council says the state holds about $18 billion worth of known uranium reserves, mostly in the north-west.

Mr Newman says the decision to lift the ban was partially prompted by Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s recent support for uranium sales to India.

“With the Prime Minister’s statement about uranium exports to India, there is no earthly reason why Queenslanders should miss out on the economic opportunities and the jobs from uranium mining in this state,” he said.

He says the resumption of mining will be overseen by a three-member committee that will report to Parliament in three months.

The State Government says it has no plans to develop nuclear power or allow the disposal of nuclear waste in Queensland.

Mr Newman says uranium mining operations could take more than a year to get up and running again.

The State Government says there are more than 80 known sites that contain valuable amounts of uranium, mostly in the state’s north-west.

Successive Labor state governments had maintained a policy of allowing uranium exploration but not mining.

Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney says the LNP has broken an election promise on the issue.

“They said that they were crystal clear that they had no plans or desire to approve or facilitate the development of uranium in Queensland,” he said.

“This is a massive and deeply disappointing about-face that completely lacks a basis in evidence and also runs against community promises and expectation.”

But State Member for Mount Isa Rob Katter says uranium mining will broaden the industry base in Queensland and generate hundreds of jobs.

“Valhalla Reserve is about 35 kilometres north of Mount Isa – just off the bitumen – it was the third or fourth biggest deposit in Australia,” he said.

“It rates between eighth and 12th largest in the world.

“Last time I checked, there is about $2 billion in royalties sitting in the ground in Queensland from uranium reserves.”

Speaking before Mr Newman’s announcement, Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady predicted the decision would spark another resources boom and bring Queensland into line with other uranium-rich states.

“The Federal Labor Government supports the mining and export of uranium, and the Opposition does, and every other state and territory – all except Queensland,” he said.

The Australian Uranium Association says the majority of the nation’s uranium deposits are found in Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

In February the New South Wales Liberal State Government approved the resumption of exploration for uranium, a move which was seen as paving the way for a full resumption of mining.

Mining is currently banned in Victoria but allowed in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Topics: uranium-mining, public-sector, mining-rural, mining-environmental-issues, mining-industry, liberal-national-party-queensland, goondiwindi-4390, brisbane-4000, longreach-4730, mount-isa-4825, toowoomba-4350

First posted October 22, 2012 13:24:29

Seabed mining resurfaces in moratorium review

Posted October 18, 2012 11:31:53

The Northern Territory Government is looking into whether it will lift a moratorium on seabed mining in coastal waters.

Earlier this year, the former Labor government announced a three-year moratorium on seabed mining to investigate its potential impacts.

The move came after fierce opposition from some traditional owners, environmentalists and the commercial and recreational fishing lobbies.

At the time, the Country Liberals claimed the moratorium was bad for business.

Chief Minister Terry Mills says the government is now looking at the issue.

He says he has spoken to representatives from Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria, who have been campaigning against mining the sea floor.

“There are some really deep concerns about that matter,” he said.

Mr Mills says a decision won’t be made until all interested parties have been heard.

He says Mines Minister Willem Westra van Holthe is responsible for overseeing the discussions.

“We need to make sure that we are hearing all voices,” he said.

“I think there are a number of issues that impact on this, and that is federal matters as well.”

Topics: environmental-management, programs-and-initiatives, mining-industry, darwin-0800, alyangula-0885, nt

Mining project environment scrutiny questioned

Updated October 17, 2012 15:37:18

An influential amateur fishing group has raised concerns about the Northern Territory Government’s environmental approval process for mining projects.

The Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the Northern Territory (AFANT) says projects are being signed off on without adequate environmental scrutiny or public input.

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has approved an iron ore mine to be developed by Western Desert Resources near Roper Bar in east Arnhem Land despite not having enough information to assess impacts on the nearby Towns River.

The EPA said its approval of the project meant it was placing a significant degree of trust in the company’s commitments to environmental protection.

AFANT executive officer Craig Ingram says he is concerned that the EPA has approved the project without getting adequate information.

He says mining and exploration projects should go through a formal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and be subject to public scrutiny and questioning.

“AFANT raised concerns about this project in its submissions and many of those issues are still being flagged as questions for the company to answer,” he said.

Mr Ingram is also calling on the Territory Government to commit to requiring some major fracking projects to go through a public EIS process.

There is now no requirement for projects to go through an EIS, and they can be signed off by the Government without public input.

AFANT has lodged objections to a number of proposed shale oil gas extraction projects in the Territory.

South Australian-based Western Desert Resources is now in talks with a Chinese steel-maker which has bid $435 million for a majority stake in the company.

Meijin Energy Group says it is particularly interested in the Roper River project.

The NT Environment Centre says both sides of politics are letting royalties and jobs get in the way of properly protecting the environment from the potential impacts of fracking.

Spokesman Stuart Blanch says politicians don’t want strong environmental regulation of oil and gas because they are afraid of what it might mean economically.

“They want the oil and gas jobs, and the royalties, and I think that has pushed many people to not improve our laws,” he said.

Dr Blanch says some fracking projects do not go through the Environmental Impact Assessment process simply because the EPA does not have the staff.

He says that means the decision about whether to conduct a full Environmental Impact Assessment is left to the discretion of public servants rather than government ministers.

“The pressures on the EPA to juggle lots of Environmental Impact Assessments means that sometimes projects that should go through a full EIS do not, just because they don’t have the staff and they have to prioritise what they do,” he said.

Topics: environmental-management, mining-industry, mining-environmental-issues, ngukurr-0852, nhulunbuy-0880, darwin-0800

First posted October 17, 2012 13:17:41

Mt Gibson Iron cuts 270 mining jobs in WA

Updated October 18, 2012 16:08:05

Mt Gibson Iron will cut 270 jobs from its mining operations in Western Australia in a bid to cope with volatile commodity prices.

The company says most positions will be slashed from its Koolan Island operations off the Kimberley coast.

It is believed 140 of those positions will be contractors.

In the company’s quarterly report released today, it says it will bring forward a number of planned redundancies associated with the closure of its Tallering Peak iron ore mine in the Mid West.

The company says the cuts are the result of a review it started in August to reduce costs and improve cash flow in light of falling commodity prices.

The report states that the Board and senior executives at Mt Gibson have agreed to a 10 per cent cut in pay.

Meanwhile, falling commodity prices have also forced Sinosteel Midwest Corporation to delay the start up of its Blue Hills haematite project in the Mid West, resulting in nine jobs losses.

The project was planned to begin following the closure of the company’s nearby Koolanooka mine.

The Federal Treasury says it is expensive for resources companies to do business in Australia and it makes sense to shut down unprofitable mining operations.

Treasury’s David Gruen says wages increased rapidly during the early stages of the mining boom when commodity prices were high.

Dr Gruen says Treasury predicted prices would fall and expected some marginal mining projects would be put on hold.

“The increase in recourse sector projects is real, when you compare us with other countries in the same currency,” he said.

“Despite that, we have a truly enormous pipeline of planned resources sector projects, which will last us until at least the middle of the decade.”

Topics: iron-ore, koolan-island-6733

First posted October 18, 2012 13:22:05

Group urges Qld Government to rethink uranium mining

Updated October 17, 2012 13:17:41

The Australian Uranium Association (AUA) says it hopes Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s visit to India will prompt the Queensland Government to reconsider its stance on uranium mining.

Ms Gillard is in New Delhi this week on her first official visit to India as Prime Minister and talks about uranium exports are expected to dominate discussions.

AUA spokesman Michael Angwin says there is an increasing global demand for nuclear energy and Queensland could benefit if a ban on mining the resource was overturned.

“Our Prime Minister is on an international stage, making an agreement with one of our major trading partners and one of our major partners in the region to supply uranium,” he said.

“But here in Australia we have a patchwork quilt of uranium policies.

“The opportunity of any expansion of uranium exports is very much a ball which is in Queensland’s court.

He says the value of Queensland’s uranium, exported at even today’s low prices, is probably more than $4 billion.

“The demand for Australia’s uranium, and for Queensland’s uranium, will be driven by the world’s demand for nuclear power,” he said.

“There is a massive expansion of nuclear power occurring in China and India, which is why our Prime Minister is there.”

Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady is calling for the State Government to hold an inquiry into uranium mining in Queensland.

He says it is the ideal time for the State Government to seriously consider overturning a ban on uranium mining in the state.

Mr McGrady says the development of an industry would mean significant economic opportunities.

“What I am calling for today is that the State Government … hold an inquiry to find out what the impediments – what are the reasons – why the opponents of uranium mining have,” he said.

“At the end of the day the State Government can be held by the findings.

“I am sick and tired of my part of Queensland missing out on jobs.”

But the State Government has reiterated it has no current plans to mine uranium in Queensland.

The Government says it is aware of the range of opinions, but made it clear it has no plans to develop a uranium sector.

A spokeswoman for Mines Minister Andrew Cripps says the Government’s highest priority is cutting red tape to access coal and other conventional mineral resources, and to speed up the approval processes for new and expanding projects.

Topics: uranium-mining, mining-industry, activism-and-lobbying, federal—state-issues, liberal-national-party-queensland, public-sector, mining-rural, mining-environmental-issues, mount-isa-4825, brisbane-4000

First posted October 17, 2012 09:47:32

Better planning could have saved mining jobs: union

By Megan Hendry and William RolloUpdated October 17, 2012 09:55:54

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) says mining companies could have avoided drastic job cuts in central Queensland if they planned for industry downturns.

Yesterday, Ensham Resources revealed 400 jobs would be cut from its open-cut coal operations near Emerald, west of Rockhampton, by the end of the year.

Ensham Resources is the third company in the state’s Bowen Basin to cut contractor jobs this week.

CFMEU spokesman Steve Smyth says contracting companies will struggle to find other work for staff.

“Companies like Goldings, considering where their other operations are are limited, they’re going to struggle,” he said.

“On the back of the Gregory Mine shutting down, that itself, the company will struggle to fill the roles or ensure people that are laid off will have jobs to go to.”

Acting Central Highlands Mayor Gail Nixon says she expects some flow-on effects from the job cuts.

Ms Nixon says while many contractors are fly-in, fly-out, a large number are based in Emerald.

“I know that a lot of people have invested in housing in Emerald and all the surrounding areas and they need to keep those payments up,” she said.

“It will be difficult for them to find employment in this climate.

“I just hope for these people on a personal level that they can find employment somewhere else and they’re not put to too much hardship in doing that.

“It’s sad to here that these people have been stood aside and the businesses will suffer, those contracting businesses, but there’s probably other opportunities for them too.”

However, the Central Highlands Development Corporation (CHDC) says job cuts at the Bowen Basin mines could be good news for local businesses who are struggling to find staff.

CHDC spokeswoman Sandra Hobbs says service industries cannot compete with mining pay rates but they can offer job security.

“Local businesses are saying that they’re able to secure skilled staff, which has been a real positive for the situation,” she said.

“Housing prices are now starting to come down and the provision of housing at cheaper rates has made a big difference to the confidence of people as well.”

Ms Hobbs says while many contractors fly-in and fly-out, a large number still live in Emerald.

“In some situations definitely people are leaving, even though a lot of these losses have been with contractors and they aren’t local people,” she said.

“I think those that have experienced that loss where they don’t have immediate opportunities, then they are leaving the area.”

Topics: unions, community-development, mining-rural, regional, regional-development, mining-industry, company-news, emerald-4720, mackay-4740, rockhampton-4700, mount-isa-4825, toowoomba-4350

First posted October 17, 2012 09:19:06

Training scheme aims to lift female mining jobs

Posted October 16, 2012 09:40:38

Three central Queensland girls have been chosen to take part in a training course where they will get a taste of life in the resources sector.

The year 10 students from Biloela and Tannum Sands will learn about workplace health and safety on a shale oil site at Gladstone.

Tammy Grady from the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy says it is part of the plan to encourage women into the resources industry.

“The QRC [Queensland Resources Council] has a target of 20 per cent women within the resource sector by 2015,” she said.

“This is just one of the incentives that we have in place to encourage women into just thinking about a career in the resource sector.

“These girls are 15 years of age and they’re already starting to commence careers, so you can imagine what they’re going to be doing when they’re a little bit older.”

She says the qualifications are vital if they choose to pursue a mining industry career.

“We don’t have a labour shortage – we do have a skills shortage,” she said.

“This is where these young girls have shown us that they are setting their career pathway, to move into a role within the minerals and energy sector and they’re starting right now at 15 years of age.”

Topics: mining-rural, vocational, mining-industry, community-development, regional, regional-development, gladstone-4680, biloela-4715, tannum-sands-4680, rockhampton-4700, mackay-4740

Fears mining boom limits caravan tourism

By Eric Tlozek, Brock Taylor and Kim KleidonUpdated October 16, 2012 12:33:33

Queensland’s caravan and camping industry say the mining boom is proving a serious threat to rural tourism.

The Campervan and Motorhome Club is warning mining bookings are causing accommodation and camping area shortages in regional destinations.

Club spokesman Ken Kipping says the State Government and local councils should open up more land for caravans and motorhomes or tourists will simply opt for other states.

“They’ve got to open up more areas – full stop, that’s the bottom line – certainly for the self-contained vehicles,” he said.

“They’ve got to just open up some more land where they can stop and shop and stay in that area for a few weeks or whatever time they need.”

Mackay Tourism general manager David Phillips says his region needs to do more to capitalise on the growing caravan market, during the mining boom.

Mr Phillips says unused sites such as the Mackay Showgrounds should be utilised to attract travelling retirees.

“It’s a logical place and it’s central in the city,” he said.

“It always baffles me that we can accommodate a circus full of caravans for a week, but we turn people away when the commercial caravan parks are full – we can’t take them there.

“I think that should be a temporary or overflow situation that we should kick into action.”

Topics: rural-tourism, tourism, activism-and-lobbying, mining-rural, toowoomba-4350, rockhampton-4700, mount-isa-4825, mackay-4740, longreach-4730, gladstone-4680

First posted October 16, 2012 09:08:38

‘Schizoid’ government stifling mining

Posted October 03, 2012 11:04:58

A mining company has criticised the financial risk involved in developing new mines in Tasmania.

Tasmania Magnesite is planning to spend $150 million on a magnesite mine south of the Arthur River in the state’s Tarkine region.

General manager Alan Daley says environmental protests and the sovereign risk posed by minority government are stifling investment.

“With the schizoid government that we have at the state level and at the federal level, people are looking with somewhat jaundiced eyes at both Australia and Tasmania, particularly in the mining area,” he said.

“That’s sad and I think that could change but it’s one of those judgements that investors have to make when they’re looking.”

Tasmania Magnesite is owned by the British company Beacon Hill Resources.

The State Opposition is meeting mining companies in the state’s north-west next week amid concerns minority government is stifling investment.

Liberal leader Will Hodgman has also criticised environment groups for vocally opposing mining in the north-west.

“What the Greens are doing is constantly moving the goalposts,” he said.

“They’re making it impossible for anybody who wants to look at Tasmania as an investment destination because they change the rules to suit their own political agenda.

“Tasmanians are more interested in jobs, investment, security for families.”

Greens MP Paul O’Halloran says the Liberal approach is creating community conflict.

“If they want to promote a “dig it up, chop it down” mentality, which seems to be the approach that they’ve taken for the last 30 or 40 years, it leaves us very vulnerable to commodity prices; for example a higher Australian dollar and our distance from market.”

Topics: mining-industry, mining-environmental-issues, mining-rural, states-and-territories, arthur-river-7330

Deal gives mining improved Woomera access

Updated October 05, 2012 15:10:01

New regulations will make it easier for mining companies to gain access to an outback defence zone.

There are already four mines operating within the Defence Department’s weapons testing range in the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA).

South Australian Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis said a standardised deed of access was now in place as a result of negotiations between the SA Government and Defence.

“In the past when you’re in Woomera, at a moment’s notice defence could ask you to leave, so obviously if you’ve got very expensive drill rigs and contractors doing some very expensive works and you’re told at a moment’s notice you’ve have to leave it’s very, very inconvenient and not cost-effective,” he said.

“Deed of access gives them certainty.”

Mr Koutsantonis said it was a valuable region for mining.

“This is about fast-tracking the discovery of SA’s hidden mineral resources in one of the most prospective regions of the state,” he said.

“[It] already hosts more than 150 active exploration licences, more than 80 applications for licences and also features operating mines including at Challenger, Prominent Hill, Peculiar Knob and Cairn Hill.

“But exploration is only the start. Our great hope is that exploration will lead to world-class discoveries within the WPA that will join the pipeline of major projects already under development in this state.”

SA Premier Jay Weatherill welcomed what he said was the unlocking of the area’s potential.

“Mining companies have been waiting for the opportunity to access this area for years and this deed of agreement will finally allow them to move their drills in and begin searching for the minerals we know are there,” he said.

Chamber of Mines and Energy executive Jason Kuchel said some of the conditions of the deed of access were too onerous for mining companies.

“We still have a concern over what’s referred to as the red zone, which is still a large portion of land which is essentially locked up from exploration,” he said.

“In comparison with the situation that we’ve had for the last 18 months to two years it should certainly assist, but if we go back 10 years ago when companies were given quite ready access to the Woomera Prohibited Area it is seen by many of our members as a backwards step.”

Topics: mining-industry, defence-and-national-security, states-and-territories, federal—state-issues, government-and-politics, mining-rural, woomera-5720, port-augusta-5700, sa, australia

First posted October 05, 2012 08:12:52

Mining contribution to remain strong

Updated October 05, 2012 12:42:33

The Treasury Secretary, Martin Parkinson, says the mining industry will continue to increase its contribution to the nation’s economy.

Dr Parkinson made the comments during a speech in Perth.

He says during the 1990s, mining contributed only five per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product but that figure is now closer to 12 per cent.

He says asian nations such as China, India and Indonesia are still developing and will continue to demand more minerals from Australia.

“They now comprise in total of around half of global GDP,” he said.

“Over the next five years they’re expected to comprise around three quarters of global GDP, so the share of the global economy that’s taken up by these emerging market economies is just going to grow over time.”

Dr Parkinson says he would not characterise the growth Australia has experienced over the past decade as a ‘boom’, but rather a radical shift in the nation’s terms of trade.

He says huge demand for Australian minerals has reshaped the nation’s economy and greatly increased its reliance on mining.

“We’ve been going now for well over a decade of seeing rising terms of trade and we see the terms of trade, even though they’ve come off, as remaining at historically high levels for the next 15 plus years.”

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, government-and-politics, economic-trends, perth-6000, australia

First posted October 05, 2012 12:20:29

Share market gains on mining

Posted October 12, 2012 12:11:05

The local share market has posted small gains overall, despite a slump in the shares of surfwear retailer Billabong.

The All Ordinaries index was up 10 points to 4,515 around midday (AEDT), and the ASX 200 had also gained 10 points to 4,493.

Billabong’s share price has fallen by around 16 per cent after private equity firm TPG withdrew its bid of $1.45 a share.

After this morning’s losses, the surfwear company’s has been trading under 85 cents a share.

The local airlines have enjoyed some of the biggest gains on the market, as rival British Airways assured customers it has no plans to withdraw from the Australian market.

Qantas has risen by 2.3 per cent, while Virgin Australia was up 1.7 per cent.

The mining sector was also trading higher.

Rio Tinto was up 1.6 per cent, while its rival BHP Billiton has gained 0.75 per cent.

The major banks have made more modest gains, led by a rise of 0.6 per cent for ANZ ahead of its interest rates announcement this afternoon.

The Australian dollar was steady against the greenback, buying about 102.73 US cents.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, markets, currency, stockmarket, australia

Mining dip starting to weigh on services sector

Updated October 03, 2012 10:22:25

A key private index of services sector activity has found the recent slump in commodity prices is feeding through to companies supporting the miners.

The Australian Industry Group – Commonwealth Bank Performance of Services Index (PSI) fell 0.5 points in September to 41.9 – a reading below 50 indicates the sector is contracting, with a lower reading indicating a faster pace of contraction.

The report found ongoing weakness in manufacturing and construction were the main drags on services activity, but businesses also complained of uncertainty about projects in the mining sector weighing on trade.

Only two of the sub-sectors – health and community services and accommodation, cafes and restaurants – reported an improvement in activity.

However, the pace of contraction slowed in other interest rate sensitive consumer sectors such as wholesale and retail, indicating that previous interest rate cuts may be gaining some traction.

The Ai Group’s chief executive Innes Willox says further rate cuts are needed to maintain that momentum.

“The overall state of the services sector, which is being squeezed between low selling prices and rising costs, including from the carbon tax, suggests that further rate reductions will be needed before the sequence of negative news is reversed,” he noted in the report.

“This will be especially crucial for the household-related services sub-sectors, in the lead-up to their annual Christmas sales peak.”

Topics: economic-trends, business-economics-and-finance, retail, money-and-monetary-policy, hospitality, australia

First posted October 03, 2012 09:46:20

Mining talks consider Olympic Dam setback

Updated October 04, 2012 08:19:34

The Chamber of Mines and Energy has urged the South Australian Government to concentrate on infrastructure investment now the BHP Billiton Olympic Dam mine expansion has been delayed.

Talks have been convened by the South Australian Premier in Adelaide with mining, local government, union and State Government representatives to consider the way forward.

Chamber chief executive Jason Kuchel said infrastructure, such as a deep sea port for iron ore exports, needed to be a focus in the wake of the Olympic Dam delay.

“The number one issue for South Australia is the lack of infrastructure and so, because many of the projects are actually quite small, we need Government intervention – not necessarily paying for the infrastructure but just in terms of actually assisting that infrastructure along,” he said.

A consortium of companies is seeking environmental approvals to build a deep sea port at Port Bonython in upper Spencer Gulf.

If it proceeds, it will provide export facilities for several smaller iron ore miners.

“There is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation in the sense that it’s more difficult for the mines to get up if there isn’t a suitable port, said Flinders Ports CEO Vincent Tremaine.

Mr Tremaine said Government money would help any venture.

SA Premier Jay Weatherill said the Government was happy to play a planning role for new port facilities.

“We can play a role as a facilitator, of course we won’t be a funder,” he said.

Port Augusta Mayor Joy Baluch said a delay in any mine expansion provided much-needed breathing room, especially for the Government.

“I don’t think that the Government was really prepared if BHP Billiton took off immediately,” she said.

Topics: states-and-territories, mining-rural, mining-industry, sa, adelaide-5000, olympic-dam-5725, port-augusta-5700, port-lincoln-5606, port-pirie-5540, roxby-downs-5725

First posted October 03, 2012 15:07:53

Fortescue granted leave for mining tax case

Updated October 03, 2012 20:32:50

Fortescue Metals has been granted leave to clarify the case it wants to bring to the High Court against the Government’s Minerals Resource Rent Tax.

The tax was introduced in July with the first payments due later this month.

But Fortescue is determined to fight the Government on the issue.

Some states including Western Australia and Queensland are also hoping to intervene in the case.

Fortescue argues the tax is unconstitutional, discriminating between the states because it is based on what rate of royalty they charge.

Its lawyers asked the High Court for an opportunity to clarify parts of its case, after issues raised by the Commonwealth.

The changes concern matters from the language of allegations about the costs of mining, to suggestions about the impact the tax may have on the competition between states.

The judge allowed the leave and the case will return to court in November.

Topics: mining-industry, tax, courts-and-trials, australia

First posted October 03, 2012 19:02:55

PM dismisses Abbott’s mining boom claims

Updated October 03, 2012 17:19:08

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has dismissed as “nonsense” Opposition claims that Labor’s policies have prematurely ended Australia’s mining boom.

In cutting the official cash rate, the Reserve Bank yesterday said investment in the resources sector was likely to peak next year at a lower level than previously expected.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has seized on the comment, arguing it is the result of the mining tax which took effect in July this year.

“The problem with this boom is that it’s been prematurely damaged by deliberate Government policy,” Mr Abbott said.

“The whole point of the mining tax was to slow down the mining boom. Well, it’s worked fellas, it’s worked.

“The mining boom has ended prematurely, so it seems, because of bad policy from this Government.”

His comments come as Australia records its worst trade deficit since 2008, largely because of a significant fall in the value of mining exports.

But the Prime Minister has accused Mr Abbott of unfairly talking the economy down at a time when it is growing at trend rates.

“We have got a resources boom where we are yet to see the investment peak and the production peak,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Launceston.

“They lie in front of us, and the Reserve Bank was crystal clear about that yesterday.

“At the same time – and partly because of the strength of the resources boom – we have got a strong Australian dollar, a very high Australian dollar.”

Ms Gillard says that is putting pressure on other sectors of the economy and the Government is working to deal with those issues.

Topics: economic-trends, business-economics-and-finance, industry, mining-industry, federal-government, australia

First posted October 03, 2012 16:53:11