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Queensland coal mines should be the last to go as the world pushes towards decarbonisation, says the Queensland Resources Council.

In the wake of the COP26 climate forum in Glasgow, the state’s peak mining body said Queensland coal producers were willing and able to meet the challenges of modern-day mining and would be operating for decades to come.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said having a superior, in-demand product backed by an industry already embracing renewable energy in its operations and heavily investing in low emissions technology would ensure the long-term future of the sector.

Long road to lower-emissions future

“Queensland coal mines should be the last coal mines closed in the world because it’s the best quality coal there is, and that goes for our thermal and metallurgical coal,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“The world needs Queensland coal more than ever to support the transition to a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future.

“Right now, steel can only be produced commercially by using metallurgical coal, and thermal coal is the only 100 per cent reliable way to produce energy.

“This will change as fast as the technology will allow and our industry will evolve accordingly, but the road to a lower emissions future is a long one that needs to be managed in an orderly and logical way.

“No-one wants to be without power and without the products that support our everyday existence.”

Mr Macfarlane said the QRC supported the Minerals Council of Australia’s ambition for resources sector to achieve net zero by 2050, and he had every confidence this would be achieved.

Following the conclusion of the COP26 on November 13, Wood Mackenzie analysts described the conference as a qualified success.

“The big splash was the announcement of India’s net zero goal, by 2070. Although met indifferently from many quarters, we think it is a big deal,” global head of markets and transitions Jonny Sultoon said.

The bone of contention was the variation between near-term 2030 reductions, and net zero pledges in the 2050-70 window.

“While the US, UK, EU-27, Japan, and South Korea aim to nearly halve emissions by 2030, growing economies such as China and India do not have such a reduction target for 2030,” Mr Sultoon said.

China and India insisted the wording of the final text was amended to ‘phase down’ rather than ‘phase out’ coal-fired power.   

Wood Mackenzie Asia Pacific head of markets and transitions Prakash Sarma said the last-minute changes reflected current realities for individual energy markets, where countries aimed to prioritise supply security over environmental goals.

This was at least through the medium term until other clean baseload supply options were commercially available at the scale that was needed to replace coal in power generation.  

Abatement pathways include retiring inefficient plants, co-firing low carbon fuels such as ammonia or hydrogen and retrofitting CCS.