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The State Government has signed off on the final approvals needed for Pembroke Resources to start construction on its $1 billion Olive Downs coking coal project.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the granting of the mining leases for the Bowen Basin project this week.

The mine is expected to create up to 500 jobs during construction and more than 1000 new jobs when the project reaches full operation.

It is expected to contribute an estimated $8 billion to the local economy and more than $10 billion to Queensland’s economy over its 79-year lifespan.

Pembroke expects the project to produce up to 15Mtpa saleable coal, to be transported by rail to the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal for export to key international markets like Japan, China, India and South Korea.

Pembroke has said it will provide workers with an opportunity to live in towns near the mine including Moranbah and Dysart.

The granting of the mining lease was the last bureaucratic hurdle to construction after the final environmental approvals were signed off by the Federal Government in May.

Major construction works expected in 2021

Queensland Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said preparation work for construction at Olive Downs could begin immediately.

“It’s expected core construction activities at the mine site 40km south-east of Moranbah will begin in 2021 with mining starting as soon as construction is complete,” he said.

The project is backed by Pembroke’s major shareholder, Denham Capital, a leading global energy and resources private equity firm. 

The Queensland Resources Council described the decision to grant the mining lease as a “critical jobs booster” for the State’s COVID-19 recovery.

“Olive Downs had been well advanced before COVID-19 with the Queensland Government announcing its approval in May 2019, and its progression to construction could not have come at a better time for Queensland,” QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said. 

“The mine is expected to provide much-needed local stimulus during COVID-19 recovery, with up to 500 jobs during construction and over 1000 new jobs when the project reaches full operation.” 

Mr Macfarlane said Olive Downs was expected to deliver more than $5 billion in royalty payments to the State Government over the life of the project.

The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed that a La Niña has formed in the tropical Pacific, with climate models suggesting it’s likely to remain until at least the end of 2020.

La Niña typically brings a wetter-than-average spring and summer to northern and eastern Australia as well as increased tropical cyclone numbers.

The last La Niña event, in 2010-2012, resulted in one of Australia’s wettest two-year periods on record and saw many areas experience flooding.

The Bureau says tropical cyclone activity in the 2010-2011 season was considered near normal.

However, five of the tropical cyclones during that time were in the severe category – including Tropical Cyclone Yasi, which caused widespread damage in North Queensland.

The BOM said it was likely this year would not see the same intensity as the 2010-11 La Niña event, but it was still likely to be of moderate strength.

The BOM had issued a La Niña alert in August but this week upgraded that status to an active event.

It’s official – La Niña is here
La Niña is the cool phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation. It is associated with cooler than average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

La Niña events normally last for around a year, however they can be shorter, or much longer.

The BOM said recent observations and model forecasts showed the central tropical Pacific Ocean was now 0.8°C cooler than normal, and that had resulted in changes to Trade Winds and pressure patterns.

Climate models suggest these patterns will continue until at least the end of the year.
The LNP plans a $33 billion Bruce Highway boost if it wins the next state election – taking the key regional route to four lanes from Cairns through to Gympie.

The massive 15-year construction effort is forecast to create an estimated 6820 full-time jobs a year, adding up to more than 100,000 jobs over the life of the project.

Opposition leader Deb Frecklington said Queensland companies would be given preference for contracts over interstate and international construction corporations – with tenders scaled to allow local small and medium-sized businesses to bid.

“With almost 200,000 Queenslanders out of work, we need major infrastructure projects to create jobs and drag us out of recession,” Ms Frecklington said.

“Four-laning the Bruce Highway will create the jobs we need right now, but it will also benefit Queensland for generations to come.

“The upgraded Bruce Highway will have a speed limit of 110kmh and will boost the economic productivity of regional Queensland and Brisbane too.”

An LNP Government would work with the Morrison Federal Government to secure an 80:20 federal-state funding arrangement to meet the $33 billion cost of the 15-year project.

Ms Frecklington said an LNP Government would immediately invest $50 million in planning for a four-lane Bruce Highway from Curra, just north of Gympie, to Cairns.

In addition, an LNP Government would increase the annual Bruce Highway budget by 125 per cent to $440 million, she said.

The Bruce Highway is a two-lane road for 1470km of its total 1650km length.

“Four-laning the Bruce Highway will improve safety, cut congestion, increase reliability and create jobs,” Opposition Transport Minister Steve Minnikin said.

“Labor announced a Bruce Highway Trust to look at ways to improve the road in 2017, but the trust’s first meeting only took place in July this year – that’s 33 months later. “

An anti-coal activist faces charges after allegedly using a lock-on device to halt operations at Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen on Monday. (Sept 28)

Frontline Action on Coal shared updates on the action by Kyle Magee, including his arrest and subsequent release from the police watchhouse, after using his decorated metal elbow “love on” device.

An Adani spokeswoman said the anti-coal activist could have been killed or seriously injured when he trespassed on Abbot Point terminal property and locked on to a ship-loading conveyor belt using a ‘dragon sleeve’ device.

“The anti-coal activist refused to remove himself and the police were forced to cut him out of the dragon sleeve and off the conveyor belt,” she said.

“This individual has no knowledge of a heavy industrial site like ours and this sort of protest activity brings a high risk that someone will be seriously injured or killed as a result of these dangerous actions.”

The incident disrupted Abbot Point operations for about five hours.

‘Lock-on’ activist disrupts coal terminal work
A pledge of $30 million for Big Rocks Weir outside Charters Towers and $10 million to support the DriveIT project in Townsville are among the economic kick-starters in a North Queensland recovery plan outlined this week.

A multi-million-dollar State Government support package to secure more than 1000 resource and manufacturing jobs by ensuring the continuation of Glencore's Mount Isa copper smelter and Townsville copper refinery was the headline announcement. 

It was one element in the Townsville Regional Recovery Action Plan unveiled by the Palaszczuk government to support the region’s economic recovery and to create local jobs.

Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper said the plan also included more upgrades to Riverway Drive and support for DriveIT.

“It’s great to see there is more than $19 million for further safety and capacity improvements on Riverway Drive,” Mr Harper said.

“And subject to further feasibility work, a $10 million boost will support the regionally-owned motor sport facility DriveIT delivering a range of programs and activities including driving courses, Emergency Services training, product testing and events.”

Katter’s Australian Party State leader Robbie Katter said today’s commitment on Big Rocks Weir would bring the project to realisation.

He said it followed the securing of $54 million ($24 million for investigations into Hells Gate Dam, the rest for construction of Big Rocks) by Federal Member for Kennedy Bob katter.

“A total of $60 million will be for construction. This is game-changing for the Charters Towers economy and for the future of irrigated cropping along the Burdekin River in North Queensland,” he said.

The Townsville Regional Recovery Action Plan also lists previously announced items such as $14.8 million backing for the CopperString 2.0 project and $16 million to investigate the potential raising of the Burdekin Falls Dam wall.

Townsville Regional Recovery Action Plan initiatives include:
- Financial support for Mount Isa Mines’ ongoing copper processing operations
- $30 million for Big Rocks Weir –to help secure water and support local agriculture, subject to a successful detailed business case.
- $19 million for more Riverway Drive upgrades
- $10 million boost to support DriveIT – subject to further feasibility work
- $2 million to support the development of an Australian first maritime autonomous system testing facility in Townsville to help position the region as a leader in the field.
- $195 million to construct stage 2 of the Haughton pipeline supporting over 500 jobs.
- $230 million in partnership with the Australian Government for stage 5 of the Townsville Ring Road underway
- $14.8 million to fast track support for the Copperstring 2.0 high voltage transmission line to drive investment in the North West Minerals Province.
- $16 million into investigating the potential raising and improvement of the Burdekin Falls Dam to boost the Townsville region’s water supply.
- $950 million in payroll tax relief, supporting 25,300 jobs in the Townsville region.
- $42.4 million in COVID-19 Jobs Support Loans supporting around 3470 jobs at 283 Townsville region businesses
- $8.1 million in adaptation grants to 907 small businesses. 

State unveils recovery plan for Townsville region
Glencore will continue to run its copper smelter in Mount Isa and refinery in Townsville beyond 2022 after reaching an agreement with the State Government.

The company announced this week that it would receive a one-off incentive from the State Government and also planned to invest more than $500 million for the continued operation of the plants.

The incentive, offered under the Queensland Government’s North Queensland recovery plan, would partially mitigate the negative costs of running the assets – which faced high fixed costs and struggled to compete internationally, the company said.

“We recognise these metallurgical assets are an important part of North Queensland economy and part of a broader supply chain which supports thousands of jobs,” the company said in a statement on the decision.

It said the agreement secured ongoing employment for about 570 direct smelter and refinery workers and a further 1000 indirect jobs.

The State Government has not revealed the exact amount of the multi-million dollar support.

But it said the support package would allow for the four-yearly re-bricking and maintenance work at the smelter, due in September next year.

The Mount Isa copper smelter is integral to fertiliser manufacturer Incitec Pivot’s regional operations. A sulphur by-product is refined and transported via rail to the Phosphate Hill plant as a feedstock in its manufacturing process. 

Incitec Pivot managing director and chief executive officer Jeanne Johns said the Queensland Government’s support was a vote of confidence for the region. 

“The government’s investment will support north Queensland’s industrial capability and provide certainty for businesses and jobs in the region,” Ms Johns said. 

“Incitec Pivot’s operations across North Queensland support around 520 regional jobs.

“Today’s funding commitment underpins fertiliser supply and manufacturing at our Mount Isa and Phosphate Hill facilities, ensuring we can continue to provide jobs to support the agricultural sector.”

Treasurer Cameron Dick said the funding lifeline for the Glencore copper assets was part of the State Government’s $8 billion plan to protect the health, jobs and businesses of Queenslanders.

“Queensland needs to maintain minerals processing capability in the North West to keep supply chains open for future critical mineral developments and the jobs they will create,” he said.