Adani aspirations

ADANI’S proposed Carmichael coal project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin may be facing protests around the country and a recalcitrant state government but Adani Australia Mining CEO Lucas Dow is determined to mould a culture in the organisation that will produce coal using low cost open cut mining techniques.
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Adani Australia CEO Lucas Dow.

Operating costs at the 10 million tonnes per annum mine will be below A$30 per tonne on the mine site due to the low stripping ratio - at less than four - and mine management's commitment to reduce wastage, he told Australia's Mining Monthly.
 
"Carmichael will sit in the first quartile of production costs," Dow said.
 
"We've sweated the capital. 
 
"The capital intensity is significantly reduced. We're driving hard on productivity. We've got a zealous focus on overheads and so the impact of the volume is not as quite as significant on the operating costs.
 
"We're taking a really cost-focused approach and what we want to avoid us building any unnecessary waste early.  
 
"Whereas when things were contemplated on a larger scale, there was probably a tendency for a little gold plating to creep in."
 
The mine is sticking to tried and true methods of ramping up open cut coal production, not resorting to any great innovations. 
 
"It's good old-fashioned mine planning so a real focus around managing our strip inventories so we're not carrying a lot of capital inventory," he said.
 
"You get the productivity right and the rest flows on after it.
 
"Really, a lot of good work has gone on the mine planning. 
 
"Focusing on that and sharpening that and prioritising where we are going to strip and the timing."
 
Dow sees his role as being more than just a CEO of one pit in the Galilee Basin and wants to take the local communities, other mines and the mining unions with him on the project.
 
"We engage with all the stakeholders," he said.
 
"The opportunity of opening up the Galilee Basin is similar to opening up a new Bowen Basin.
 
"We're not going to do anything funky on the industrial relations front. We're going to be very boring.
 
"The company wants good productivity and good people and is now hiring."
 
Dow said more than 14,500 people had registered interest in working on the Carmichael project and Adani Mining was being inundated by jobseekers demanding to know what was required for construction of the mine to start. 
 
The Carmichael project is expected to deliver 1500 direct jobs and 6750 supporting jobs.
 
Dow said the main prerequisite was for potential Adani employees to reflect the growing productivity focus at the company. 
 
"Got the right attitude, are motivated, and willing to be trained if necessary," he said.
 
"One of the things that struck me when I joined Adani was there was a tremendous commitment to seeing this through and a huge amount of resilience.
 
"The fact that we've been at this for eight years and never taken a backward step is testament to that.
 
"The prospect that people think we are just going to whither and go away has been completely disproved.
 
"There's a real determination and as I said a few times joking: the people that are with us are committed to the project but there's easier ways to make a quid."
 
When the company first started developing Carmichael a lot of people thought the protestors around the country just had it in for Adani. Dow thinks it is deeper than that.
 
"It's a more an existential reflection of the industry," he said. 
 
"If it wasn't us it would be someone else. Whitehaven saw it with Maules Creek [open cut coal mine in NSW].
 
"My concern is for the broader industry and it's fine for people to have different opinions.
 
"I demonstrate that it is safe and legal and people are taking care of themselves."
 
Protestors around Australia who are taking up protests against Adani's Carmichael project are "just steeling our resolve", Dow said.
 
"We know there are people in northern and central Queensland who are depending on us to get going for their job," he said.
 
"While I understand people have a different opinion at the same time you have to ask what's their skin in the game when you have those folks in North Queensland who want to work.
 
"Now is a tough time and at our regional head office [in Townsville during the floods] and a number of our staff have had their houses inundated."
 
Dow said Adani employees were part of the "mud-army" trying to clean up Townsville after the floods.
 
While Carmichael is a major mine it pales by comparison with other existing coal operations that are much larger yet do not get any of the controversy. 
 
Dow cites the Glencore Clermont mine, which produces 13.6Mtpa, BHP's Mt Arthur with 19.7Mt, and the Yancoal-Glencore HVO joint venture operation with 13Mtpa.  
 
"Originally [around] our project there was a lot of mythology: 'It's going to be the world's greatest mine', and to be honest some of that was probably self-inflicted on our part," he said.
 
"And if we had our time again we probably would've gone about it a little differently."
The project in the emerging Galilee Basin became a lightning rod for environmental groups with its original plan to build a number of open cut and underground mines at the Carmichael site that would produce 60Mtpa.
 
 "There's a Queensland competitor that every time he sees me he gives me a giant cuddle," Dow said. "While you've been doing that [gaining approval for Carmichael] he says: 'I've been able to go and build some mines'."
 
Dow believes that the world is watching the Carmichael project and using it is a barometer as to the level of sovereign risk in Queensland.       
 
"People are actively looking at whether they invest in Queensland on the back of this project," he said. "Ask anyone who goes through India, the reality is people are watching this project. Sovereign risk is a killer for investment for other miners and people are clearly watching it."
 
Dow said he was encouraged by the level of support at the federal level from the both the government and the Labor Party.
 
He acknowledged the recent comments by federal opposition treasurer Chris Bowen, who would not be drawn on blocking the Carmichael project.  
 
"Mr Bowen's comments were instructive around sovereign risk," Dow said.
 
"Labor is not going to put itself in a position where it's tearing up existing approvals and then being required to compensate Adani. Federal Labor is being pretty clear they don't want to enter into that space of sovereign risk and we'd support that."
 
However, Dow found the Queensland Department of Environment and Science's recent decision to refer the company's black throated finch management plan to the Threatened Species Recovery Hub extraordinary, considering the department had been reviewing the plan for more than 18 months and had black throated finch experts on its own staff.
 
Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan blasted the Queensland government for bowing to environmental activists who claimed the black throated finch wold be endangered if the proposed Carmichael mine goes ahead.
 
Canavan said Adani's plan would increase the black throated finch's habitat by 30,000ha and had been in the works for more than three years.
 
The federal Department of Environment approved Adani's management plan.
 
Canavan said the Queensland Labor party had deserted workers in the state's coal industry.
 
"The state government recently waved through a management plan for the finch in regards to the Townsville Ring Road, but has applied a different process for a coal mine," he said.
 
"Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should put Queenslanders first instead of playing politics with their lives and fortunes.
 
"The government has to stop moving the goal posts.
 
"We're getting on with doing everything we can under our current approvals.
"Hundreds of these workers are from towns where the economy is not doing as well as Brisbane.
 
"This sort of public response is a rejection of the fear and misinformation campaign waged by activists in an attempt to kill off the state's key industry."
 
That is an industry that is a key employer, particularly in parts of Queensland where jobs have been extremely hard to come by.
 
Dow said 5661 of the 14,500 who had registered interest in getting a job with Adani had been unemployed when they registered.
 
"When you get 14,500 people wanting to work for you and most of these people come from Queensland, you would hope the Queensland government would take notice,'' he said.
 
"Rockhampton and Townsville are hurting from unemployment issues. 
 
"We have jobs ready to go now and we've committed to getting our workers from Rockhampton and Townsville.
 
"Our contractors will largely come from across regional Queensland as well, from places like the Isaac region, Mackay, the Whitsundays and Gladstone as well as Townsville and Rockhampton."
 
Over the past nine months, Adani has invested $70 million worth of work on the Carmichael project alone, and it has invested more than $3.3 billion in Australia since 2010.
 
 "We're doing everything we can to get these people into jobs, but we need the Queensland government to get onboard and help us deliver jobs that are ready for regional Queensland communities tomorrow if we're given the green light to proceed," Dow said. 
 
"Our DNA is one of perseverance. Importantly, we don't require any government funding."