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Category: Mining Industry / Business, Economics and Finance / Industry / Mining (Rural) / Activism and Lobbying / Public Sector / Government and Politics / Community Development / Federal - State Issues / Regional

Miner lodges complaint to CCC over alleged Glencore illegal mining activity

Monday, 20 Mar 2017 05:19:09

Queensland is losing more than 500 regional jobs and about $15 million a month in royalties because the State Government is favouring a multinational company over an independent, state-owned company, a mine owner says.

Key points:

  • Department not prosecuting Glencore for alleged illegal mining activity on land it does not have rights over in the Bowen Basin, QCoal says
  • It claims Queensland Government considering introducing legislation to correct the department's handling of the issue
  • Minister Anthony Lynham is aware of the issue but not of the complaint, spokeswoman says

QCoal managing director Chris Wallin has lodged a formal complaint to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) that accuses the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) of not prosecuting Glencore for alleged illegal mining activity on land it does not have rights over in the Bowen Basin.

QCoal has a mining application to develop the Byerwen Coal Project near Glenden, south-west of Mackay in central Queensland, over the land in question.

The Byerwen Coal Project was declared a significant project by Queensland's Coordinator-General in 2014 and was expected to contribute about $200 million annually in royalties.

Mr Wallin said the department was now trying to cover up Glencore illegally hauling coal over the land and wanted to reduce the area his mining application covers.

He said he had been forced into action because he heard the Government was considering introducing legislation this week to correct the department's handling of the issue.

"The Premier's department has advised it's considering special legislation to take parts of our mining lease away and to grant the mining lease to Glencore," Mr Wallin said.

He said he did not think Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was aware of the issue, but that the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Anthony Lynham, was.

"It's horrendous because they haven't investigated these very serious allegations about illegal mining," Mr Wallin said.

"You would have the unintended consequence of rewarding a massive mining company that has been involved in illegal operations for over 10 years, and it would be getting a benefit and I find that quite appalling.

"This is incredible because the department has a duty to investigate mining activities in the state to determine that they're within the bounds of the legislation.

"Could you imagine the police department getting a complaint about potential illegal activities and taking no action for 10 years — I mean, everyone would be outraged."

Premier may be 'not aware' of allegation

Mr Wallin said Ms Palaszczuk's comments during a visit to India last week about the need to progress the Adani coal project to create regional jobs indicated she was not aware of what was happening with his QCoal application.

He said if approved, it would create thousands of jobs and boost the regional economy.

"There are 500 direct jobs and up to 1,000 other jobs in the region and this is a very depressed region," he said.

"The coal industry has gone through very hard times in the last three or four years and jobs are vitally required."

Mr Wallin said he doubted Ms Palaszczuk knew what had been happening in the department.

"We've contacted the Premier's office from October last year — you might remember she visited Japan in November that year and visited our partner JFE — and so we've been trying to see her since that time," he said.

"But she's obviously a very busy woman and I suspect she's not aware of the gravity of the allegation — I think she would be furious that allegations of illegal mining were not investigated fully."

Queensland could lose $10b in royalties over 50 years

Mr Wallin said the state was also missing out on millions of dollars.

"We've got a chalk resource of over 3 billion tonnes and we want to produce 10 million tonnes of coal per annum and this would generate royalties of approximately $15 million a month for Queensland," he said.

"Over 50 years, you're looking at around $10 billion of royalties.

"We're privately owned, we're based in Queensland, in Australia — you're comparing that to a multinational company based in Switzerland."

Mr Wallin said the Byerwen project was shovel ready and secured all necessary approvals and now only needed the Minister's approval.

"It's an extremely long and involved process, you have to satisfy all the government departments, all the industry groups, including the environmental groups that you can operate in all the current rules and regulations," he said.

"That has taken us seven years to get to that point on these two leases and then to have this hurdle put in front of us is unimaginable."

He said QCoal had even been through the Land Court to resolve the dispute with Glencore, with the court referring it to the Minister.

Minister not aware of complaint, department says

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines said Dr Lynham was aware of the issue, but not of the complaint.

"DNRM has been working with the two parties for around five years, seeking to negotiate a mutually-acceptable outcome that will allow Glencore to continue its operations, which employ 450 people, and allow QCoal to commence developing its project," she said.

"This is in the best interests of workers and their families.

"It has been long-term practice, accepted by departments, for mining operations to use registered access land to transport mined resources and as a corridor for linear infrastructure such as powerlines and pipelines.

"With more than 1,500 granted mining leases with registered access, any change to this accepted practice — as suggested by the Land Court — could have significant impact on many operations, including small-scale, intensive operations.

"With this in mind, and the inability for the parties to agree to a resolution, the Minister has asked the department to look into all possible options."

 

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