Monday, 20 September 2010

We've got the mining cowboys - now the Indians are coming to get our coal?

Australia now appears to be a country in search of a Carbon Price.  With a minority government, the labyrinthine twists and turns in this search will be an ongoing political interest.  Coal - the ultimate carbon polluter - is big in this big country.  Someone seems to be keeping an eye on this and I hope more people join in.

Wikipedia is a democratic information vehicle.  Anyone can join in, make a contribution, edit the contributions of others - and everyone can keep watch.  The entry for "Coal in Australia" is quite extensive and put together in a coherent and accessible manner.  The watch is being kept it would seem.  And it needs to be.

As you will see from the Wikipedia entry, Networkers, coal is huge but there is no mention of Chinese interests.  However, Shenhua has been exploring in the Liverpool Plains area of New South Wales.  The Liverpool Plains is one of Australia's major foodbowls.  People in this area have been involved in a long campaign to preserve their land and their livelihoods.

Australians are hardly on an energy diet as we continue to consume plasma television sets and other high energy users.  However, there is nothing like a highly populous country for energy hunger.  Japan, currently estimated to have a population of 125 million, came into Australian long ago.  Japan is Australia's biggest coal customer but has also been a miner here in joint ventures such as the Thiess Peabody Mitsui venture at Moura in central Queensland.  Through Japan Coal Development Australia, Japanese coal investment in Australia continues.  The coal developments in Central Queensland however, have not taken prime agricultural land as is now set to occur in the Liverpool Plains in NSW and the Darling Downs and South Burnett areas of Queensland.  The land that the Japanese mines disturbed was cattle grazing country.

Now we see China on the move in Australia through Shenhua, the world's largest coal producer.

In addition, it appears that India is gearing up for international coal investment.  It will be a surprise if Australia is not on India's radar as an investment prospect.  The likely Indian investment vehicle is government owned - as in China's Shenhua - Coal India Limited. Coal India claims to be the largest coal producer in the world.

Add to this our own majors, Rio Tinto Coal and BHP Billiton, and a string of minor miners, you can imagine, Networkers, that we have some industrious, ambitious, and determined people out to gobble up our land and, perhaps, make Australia one large continental quarry.

 It has been the export dollars from the resource industries  - as well as the Economic Stimulus Plan - which have enabled Australia to weather the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) better than any other nation on earth.  Our employoment figures are good.  Those are the plus signs.  However, there is a downside.  People living near open pit mines are complaining of health problems and dust-affected lives.  Foodbowls are under threat as well as our environment.

Governments - local, state, federal - are always suckers for development: rate, tax and royalty bases; population growth; jobs and so on.  The preservation of ecosystems, the biospheres of food, air and water, are not do or die issues with our elected representatives.  Resource industry promoters, however, can mean political life or death to governments and individuals involved in politics.  Somewhere, it seems that our daily bread and milk and fresh air needed for survival are not important.  Those things, it seems, will come from somewhere else if need be.  But if not from here, where?  The world population continues to skyrocket as arable land decreases by the minute.

Where lies Australia's food and water security if we don't give it the value it warrants?  Already Australia is a net importer of foodstuffs in which we were once self-sufficient.  If we can't be self-sufficient in food and water for our own population in our own land, we are mendicants.  We are beggars seeking sustenance from Empire - whichever empire is dominant at the time.

Our national government is doing business at the end of a very fragile thread.  Now is the time to capture their attention.  Now is the time for Australians to co-operate in working for what we need most, what we value most.  Our livelihoods, our heritage, our very lives may be at stake.

Do we want to throw the most valuable parts of the human condition away for more plasma tvs, broadband, and a job without Australian food and with heavily regulated, privatised, expensive water?
Further reading:

Total Pageviews