A 121,000ha Central Queensland cattle fattening property, sold for $110m, is on track to host a super-sized open-cut coal pit 45km long, an international airport and a fly-in fly-out settlement of 2500 overseas miners.
Plans to use the project as an anchor for a whole new township of 7000 people north-west of Clermont have been shelved – in part because the local council says it could not afford to provide the necessary services.
Moray Downs, a holding of the Acton Land and Cattle Company (ALCC) located 250km south of Charters Towers, has been sold to the Indian-owned coal company Adani Mining Pty Ltd, but is expected to remain in production under a lease-back arrangement.
ALCC company director, Graeme Acton, declined to discuss the sale, other than to confirm that he signed the deal prior to Christmas. The purchaser was Adani principal Gautam Adani, who controls the Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen, leased as part of the State Government’s privatisation program. Both parties agreed to a confidentiality arrangement.
“You’ll have to ask Mr Adani about the project. It is not for me to say,” Mr Acton said.
A spokesman for Adani Mining Pty Ltd said the enterprise will employ Australians before it sources workers from overseas. “Our commitment is to train Australian workers, if they are not skilled to work on our projects, before looking at any options from overseas,” the spokesman said.
Adani says the project will create 5,000 jobs during construction and 3,500 permanent jobs. It is expected to start production by 2015 and produce 60 million tonnes a year by 2020.
Mayor of the Isaac Regional Council, Cedric Marshall, said the Moray Downs coal leases, purchased by Adani from Linc Energy, straddle the Carmichael River. He said a council delegation met Adani Mining representatives in Brisbane last month to discuss their plans to make Carmichael Mine Australia's biggest by 2022. The venture would supply coal-fired power plants in India.
Mr Marshall said his council area included four purpose-built mining towns, Dysart, Middlemount, Glendon and Moranbah. He said Carmichael was adjacent to another large coal lease being developed by Chinese interests. “In this case, Adani is leaning toward the construction of a mining village with single accommodation,” he said. “The mine site is in the Galilee basin. It is a very remote area and it will take ten years or so for the project to build up to full capacity.”
The mayor said workers would be flown in to an on-site airport, which would be built during the initial construction period of at least two years. The venture would involve the widening of the Gregory Development Road between Clermont and Charters Towers and the sealing of a 70km link to the mine site.
“To build a town is a large undertaking,” Mr Marshall said. “With families and all the services, it would need to accommodate at least 5-7000 people and would involve a huge cost. A village, with single accommodation would be just a quarter of the size.
Mr Marshall said councils were unable to offer wages sufficient to attract staff to remote communities – a problem that had caused Rio Tinto to resume corporate control of the township of Weipa recently.
“Even within our existing council area, we have a workforce of 390-400 but we are always 60-70 workers short,” he said. “The Carmichael site is not as remote as Weipa, but it is much more remote than the rest of the Isaac area. It would be impossible to compete for staff with jobs at the mine and one way or another, the infrastructure and the houses have to be built and the services maintained.
“We are not the government. They get the royalties, we get the headaches.”
Mr Marshall said the pit at the Carmichael mine would be equal in size to the Saraji mine at Dysart and the Peak Downs mine combined. “Right across Queensland, it is the one coal seam, stretching all the way from Collinsville to Ipswich,” he said.
The council expected the venture would have a significant impact on the township of Clermont, where industrial estates and housing developments were being planned.