What with reports of the boom being over and engineering jobs being threatened as BHP Billiton pulls resources from planned projects, the mining sector has faced its share of challenges over the past few months.
It comes as somewhat of a relief, then, that the approval of Abbot Point Port could mean hundreds of jobs for the industry in Queensland.
Gina Rinehart and GVK Hancock’s $10 billion Alpha Coal Project is comprised of two coal mines in the Galilee Basin, a 49-kilometre standard gauge railway line and the planned port facilities at Abbot Point, which now have the Terminal 3 development approval.
GVK Hancock said the terminal project would create about 650 construction jobs, and 200 permanent jobs in the Whitsunday area. The rest of the project could employ as many as 1,800 ongoing intergenerational operational jobs with work for another 4,000 during construction.
GVK vice chairman Sanjay Reddy says the company is “delighted with this decision.”
“We are the only coal developer in Australia to possess environmental approvals at a state and federal level that integrate the mine, rail and port brining to finalisation the Tier One environmental approvals that will significantly assist in the facilitation of opening up the Galilee Basin,” he says.
There is always a kicker, however, with the Greens and Greenpeace voicing continued concerns over the environmental impact of the project, saying the project will see an unacceptable rise in ships passing the Great Barrier Reef and that the mine will adversely impact air quality and native flora and fauna. They claim that most Australians are against the development.
But Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says 60 conditions have been imposed on the project near Bowen, including measures to ensure the protection of the World Heritage area.
“The proponent must work with the Queensland government to identify opportunities to protect and conserve seagrass, the vital asset that protects threatened species including dolphins, marine turtles and dugongs,” Burke said. “A heritage management plan will also need to be developed to maximise the ongoing protection and long-term conservation of the outstanding universal value of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage property.”
Burke said there would also have to be a comprehensive management and monitoring system to look at all impacts on matters of national environmental significance. Plans to manage and monitor air quality, water quality and increased shipping would also be required.
It is estimated that returns to government for each year of construction will exceed $1 billion.
Pending the finalisation of construction contracts and secondary approvals, construction for the projects it set to start next year with first production not expected until 2016.