Hogsback sends Alan Jones to Borneo

IF Alan Jones, the top-rating radio announcer who has thrown his weight against new laws aimed to protect coal-mine developments wants to see the future of Australian coal, then Hogsback suggests he visits Indonesia.

Staff Reporter

It will be a bit of a long haul but when he gets to the Kalimantan part of the island of Borneo he should go immediately to Haju where he can watch the company which once called itself The Big Australian mining high-grade metallurgical coal.

In fact, if Jones is there at the right time he might get a briefing on a new BHP Billiton coal mine near Haju because the company is so pleased with the first, which only opened two years ago, that it has started early-stage work on a second.

The lesson of Haju is a sobering one for Australian mine workers, investors and politicians because it disproves so much of the rubbish spouted by the opponents of coal mining.

When the first BHP Billiton mine at Haju was proposed by the Australian company in joint venture with its Indonesian partner, Adaro Energy, the opposition was hysterical with claims that that ranged from despoiling forest to killing orangutans.

What happened at Haju is a perfect proxy for what’s now happening in Australia where environmentalists are not only grasping at straws to oppose mine developments they’re inventing straws.

The difference between operations in Australia and those in Indonesia is that the process is allowed to proceed according to agreements with government, including meeting strict environmental protection conditions.

Indonesia is, in effect, getting the coal mines that might have been developed here.

In Australia, a third party has become a player in the process with the single-minded focus of stopping coal mining because of a philosophical belief that it is bad for the world, totally ignoring evidence that coal remains a critical source of energy for billions of people.

In other words, the Australian legal system has become a weapon for environmentalists to oppose coal-mine development today, and who knows what tomorrow; oil and gas are a near certainty, and why not iron ore?

The key to understanding what’s happening is that (a) the world wants coal, (b) is prepared to pay for it, and (c) if Australia will not provide it then other countries will – and jobs which might have gone to Australians and tax revenue which might have gone to Australian governments will go elsewhere because the coal will be mined here or there.

That’s the first lesson for Jones and his friends in the Lock The Gate anti-coal campaign. You might lock your gate but you will not stop coal mining.

The second point for Jones and his friends to consider is one of who’s actually funding the anti-coal campaign, particularly the efforts to shut the Adani and GVK developments in Queensland.

The quick answer is foreign. Strange as it might seem but a lot of the money being spent by environmentalists in running the case against Adani and GVK comes from overseas, from people who actually have no interest whatsoever in Australia, other than opposing legally-approved mine developments.

Stopping this international push to cripple an important part of the Australian economy is a perfectly logical step for the Australian government which has as its first priority the creation of jobs for local workers, not just directly in coal mining but in the industries which service coal.

A series of developments over the past week have hardened the case against the international push to kill Australian coal, starting with an historic win by the owners of the Alpha mine proposed by India’s GVK group and Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart.

After being jammed up in a legal process that was funded by people with no interest in the region where the mine is located GVK not only won the legal argument, it had costs awarded against the mine opponents.

What happens next will be very interesting because extracting the hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs from the people behind the campaign against the mine could reveal a few secrets, such as who they are, where they live, and whether they will pay – or can be made to pay.

The other interesting development was the launch of the “Little Black Rock” pro-coal advertising campaign by the Minerals Council of Australia.

Admirable in its concept and the three key messages it is design to carry the portrayal of coal as a simple piece of rock does seem to be a rather childish way of promoting something so important to the Australian economy.

Perhaps a child-like approach is necessary these days to get through to a public hooked on the simplicity of social media which demands a debate no longer than 20-or-30 words.

Whether explaining the role of coal in providing essential energy, creating jobs and generating jobs can be done in a handful of words will be interesting.

It might work, but The Hog is withholding judgment and hoping that the advertisements are not too embarrassing.

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