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Quarry Australia « Previous | |Next »
August 7, 2011

What is good for the mining industry is good for Australia. Or so we are told by the spin merchants. We know that Australian governments, both state and federal, have a strong vested interest in the continued extraction of mineral resources. The reasons are simple: they assume that Australia’s economic future lies underneath our feet and that Quarry Australia is the means to ensure prosperity in a global world.

However, the history of mining suggests otherwise.

Andamooka7.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, mine tailings, Andamooka

The consequences are often lunar landscapes, poisoned landscapes, limited environmental restoration and minimal site rehabilitation. These are some of the environmental and social costs of “Quarry Australia”.

'Some', because the mining industry has an explicit political agenda. It is in the denial camp of global warming and is anti-the carbon tax and mining tax, and in favour of regime change in Canberra. The Gillard Government is bankrupting the country and placing the resource industry at risk, and reducing Australia's international competitiveness.

Big Mining is a core part of the conservative power bloc whose views are represented by the politics of The Australian newspaper: pro markets, mining, industry and business; anti-big government, high taxation, central planning and regulation. It sees the Gillard government as weak (because it is a minority government) and it is too beholden to The Greens. Regime change cannot come quick enough.

The mining strand of conservatism is a one that is denationalizing bits and pieces of Australia's national system. These global firms global operations space that is at least partly inserted in the countries that comprise the global economy. They need private property protections and guarantees of contracts from each of the states involved in the context of an increasingly formalized global economy (eg., the World Trade Organization). Such an economy is increasingly dominated by deregulation, privatization, and the growing authority of non-state actors.

Gina Rinehart of Hancock Prospecting explicitly pushes this process of denationalizing the bits and pieces of Australia's national system in a specific direction. She says:

After the shock to exploration investment in Australia that the carbon tax and MRRT have caused, Australia needs some innovative vision to restore investment confidence. We need to learn from and follow China’s and other countries examples of special economic zones, economic zones with less tax and less regulations and that are welcoming to investment and growth.

The transboundary dynamics and formation that Rinehart has in mind take the form of northern economic zone encompassing regional Western Australia and Queensland; a zone with low tax rates, lots of incentives and minimal environmental regulation of entrepreneurs; and deep interlocking cross border networks to China and Asia.

This embeddiness of the global deep inside the nation state would produce its own form of authority that would enable national mining capital to become global capital. This requires the nation state---ie., Canberra---to act both as the ultimate guarantor of the "rights" of global capital and also to incorporate into itself the global project of its own shrinking role in regulating economic transactions and reducing the tax required to pay for public services.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:03 PM | | Comments (9)


The IPA (Institute for Public Affairs) says reducing taxes and regulation across the north would stimulate development and population growth.

It supports the north of Western Australia and Queensland becoming a lower-tax economic zone covering the whole of the north.

This was needed to ensure the resource sector remained globally competitive in the face of growing competition from Africa and South America for the Chinese market.

Personally, and I'm far from alone in this, I couldn't give a flying .... what the IPA says.
Although I must admit that if you take what they say and understand that the opposite is probably much closer to the truth then they can be a handy guide to reality sometimes.
But really its hardly worth the effort to wade through their turgid ideological male bovine excreta.
Basically the world would be a better place without the IPA even tho' that would mean the mass media would have to create yet another right wing unthink tank to go to when it wants to spread some propaganda.

You may gather I'm not impressed by the [lack of] credentials of the IPA.

The IPA has been paid to publicize the Gina Rinehart's idea of a northern economic zone.

I'm concerned with the speed that companies want to deplete our resources. Mines with 25 year lifespans can't possibly value properly commodities that take millons of years to replace.
And would have no qualms digging up some of Australia's best farmland to do so. No concern for those living in millenia to come.

"...Australian governments, both state and federal, have a strong vested interest..."

Part of that interest, of course, is to perpetuate the myth that we, as a nation are doing quite well. Never mind that the vast majority of us (financially speaking) are living on the razor's edge.

I agree re the coal seam gas in NSW and the use of fracking:The latter involves:

involves pumping water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into the coal or shale to create fissures or cracks, to enable the gas to come out. The process requires vast amounts of water, and results in enormous amounts contaminated water containing chemicals and excessive amounts of salt.

That means ground water contamination due to the impact on adjoining aquifers, and adverse health effects as outlined in the submission of Doctors for the Environment Australia to the Senate.

Unfortunately coal seam gas mining is spreading across the continent and its impacts are, and will be assessed, in each state by different processes of variable quality. So its good to hear about the farmer's resistance to this---lock the gate. Fracking should be banned.

"coal seam gas mining is spreading across the continent and its impacts are, and will be assessed, in each state by different processes of variable quality."

The states have adopted a suck it and see approach to environmental protection. It's a system of adaptive management, which means that if we really mess up, if we have a disaster, well we just simply change the regime.

How do you make good a devastated aquifer?

The coal seam gas issue was raised on Lateline last week.

From the discussion it would appear that the Landholders own the surface of the land whilst the government owns the resources underneath. Governments have all lined up behind thee mining companies. They don't care what the impacts are going to be.

Drew Hutton says that in Queensland the "negotiating process"works like this:

In Queensland you've got 20 days to negotiate. Then the company can take you to compulsory mediation, after 20 days, for another 20 days. Then at the end of that 20 days, they can take you as a landowner to the Land Court. The minute it goes to the Land Court, they can legally enter your property.

The reason the miners haven't taken any landowner to the Land Court is the minute they take a landowner, a farmer, to the Land Court, which then allows them to call the police in and bulldoze their way across that farmer's property to trash his land, then that's the time when the people of Australia will say, "That's intolerable".

If it's done properly I think coalseam gas can peacefully co-exist with farming. There will be some intrusion, but nothing compared to long wall mining.
The CSG debate has moved into my area now, with the main concern being aquifers followed by the evaporation dams for contaminated water. Our district relies on underground water for town water, stock water and irrigation. When we see pictures of bore heads and even household taps in Qld where you can light a flame beside running water you have to ask some questions.
I don't think there are enough inspectors on the ground to keep up with the rapid expansion. I understand a lot of Australia's hydrologists are tied up with insurance claims from all the flooding this year. Not reassuring from a CSG perspective.