Buy Plimer's new book

THIS week Allan Trench reviews Ian Plimer’s new book Not for Greens – which is a must-read for all in the minerals industry – and for Greens too.
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Staff Reporter

It is a good job that Australia has an erudite ‘someone’ willing to break with political correctness and say it like it is on all things relating to romantic environmentalism.

Professor Ian Plimer is of course that someone – with his latest book, entitled Not for Greens now available via publishers Connor Court (

Strictly Boardroom may not fully agree with every word in Ian’s book – but does concur with most of it. Some statements in Not for Greens are clearly designed to be provocative (make that many statements) – and one can feel the frustration of the writer that the world has essentially gone environmentally mad. The clear risk is that societies in the developed world take an over-the-top eco-stance on all things that occur in the environment to the economic detriment of all. A tax on breathing out may not be far beyond the Green agenda – although breathing in may perhaps be permitted to remain duty-free.

This book is worth reading for many reasons. Yes, Ian’s style is to provoke – and more measured prose would I suspect increase rather than decrease the impact of his work. That said one can understand the approach – when scientific nonsense is presented as scientific fact by the various green movements on all things relating to minerals and mining.

Let me give you a recent personal experience. A nice young lady from the Wilderness Society stopped me on the street a few weeks ago asking me to sign up.

The catch-cry was that mining was eating up the environment, and that the world was running very low on mineral resources so that development was unsustainable: Miners were environmental vandals.

Such a stance is clearly ridiculous – but the lady in question had been loaded with supporting false ‘science’ such that she genuinely believed it. A few questions revealed that her level of science would be around that of someone in years 8-10.

I commend her commitment to the cause – and her drive at getting out there to rally others to the green vision. What she really should do, of course, is read more broadly on the subject to get a more informed perspective. Again I commend and not condemn her passion, but lament that it is so ill-directed and ill-founded: If those that actually do understand the minerals industry made half such effort to speak to the public then mining would be far less of a pariah in the eyes of many.

Not for Greens is a book that will polarise – which is probably the current situation anyway. Ian’s book has some great material in it – for example tracking the factors and processes of production that make the humble spoon as an example of mining’s many benefits to society.

The overarching message is that mining is all about the future although it has already built the past. Mining is the channel through which those in poverty in the developing world will see their lives transformed. The alternative is shocking but a real possibility. Taking a romantic environmentalist approach would deny those in poverty a better future.

Could the minerals sector do more to be green? I believe the answer here is certainly yes. That mining operations off-grid in Australia have yet to take advantage of hybrid solar-diesel power is something I struggle to comprehend, as an example.

We are neglecting a proven method to reduce power consumption for no particular reason than we’re too busy – perhaps because the typical gains per operation sit only at around $1 million per year and most mines have far larger production-related challenges to cash-flow each day. The million dollars is not the issue though.

The message that adoption of such technology (in part developed by CSIRO) would send would be a very green one indeed. One problem, of course, is that you have to cut down a few trees to make room for the solar panels! Such environmental trade-offs will be commonplace challenges of the future: Romantic environmentalism is not one of them.

Buy the book.

Good hunting.

Allan Trench is a Professor at Curtin Graduate School of Business and Research Professor (value and risk) at the Centre for Exploration Targeting, University of Western Australia, a non-executive director of several resource sector companies – and the Perth representative for CRU Consulting, a division of independent metals and mining advisory CRU Group (