@ The Coalface has been calling for an overhaul of the planning system for years and we’re not alone. In September, the NSW Minerals Council launched a public advertising campaign calling for urgent changes to the system. Finally, it looks like action is being taken.
This year the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has been under the spotlight for some controversial decisions made on Hunter mine projects. Here’s a recap of the last few months.
In August we saw the IPC reject the Dartbrook Mine’s 5 year extension proposal. The mine was approved to December 2022 and had applied for an additional 5 years, however the IPC found that to not be in the public interest. Refusal of the extension raises questions about whether the mine will go ahead.
Then later in August we saw the IPC approve the United Wambo project – with a Scope 3 emissions condition, a condition where it can only export coal to signatories of the Paris Agreement or countries with similar controls on emissions.
In September, the IPC rejected the KEPCO Bylong Coal Project saying the mine was not in the public interest. This refusal came after more than 7 years of assessment despite strong support from the local community, local MPs, local council, local businesses, and the Department of Planning Infrastructure and Environment which assessed that the project was approvable with conditions.
Then on October 4, the IPC approved the Rix’s Creek Continuation Project only to withdraw the consent hours later. It said an “administrative error” had resulted in the invalid determination being issued prior to the deadline for additional information. With 300 jobs on the line it’s quite a mistake to make. The approval did end up coming through on October 12, but the mistake had already been made.
After all these controversial decisions, the NSW Minerals Council launched their ad campaign which called for urgent changes to the NSW planning system to protect NSW jobs and the economy.
NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said the decision to initiate the campaign was not taken lightly and came after months of engagement and warnings to the Minister for Planning and others in the government about the risk of the planning system to jobs and investment.
“While the Deputy Premier and others in the NSW Government have shown strong support for mining projects and mining communities, the Planning Minister seems oblivious to the damage being done by the crisis in his planning system, especially in the regions. The industry has repeatedly warned the Planning Minister of the risks to the NSW economy and has been reassured that reforms to planning timeframes and processes would be pursued. However, no action has been taken and the problems have only gotten worse,” said Mr Galilee.
In March 2018 the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) replaced the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC). Its remit was to consider development applications for mining and other major projects in NSW by conducting public hearings on planning and development matters and providing independent advice to the department and minister. The IPC would act as the final determination authority for NSW planning projects.
But as the Minerals Council’s campaign pointed out, the NSW Government has repeatedly fast-tracked its own large and controversial projects through the state planning system, bypassing the IPC, while expecting other major projects to endure a lengthy, uncertain and costly assessment process that is costing jobs and investment in NSW.
The NSW Government has not submitted a single one of its own significant infrastructure projects to the long and dysfunctional process that other major projects in NSW have to endure, including the controversial Sydney CBD Light Rail, Sydney Football Stadium, Parramatta Light Rail, and Westconnex projects.
The NSW Government can declare – with virtually no recourse for appeal – projects ‘state significant infrastructure’ (SSI). This allows the NSW Government projects to bypass the IPC and approval lies with the Minister for Planning. In fact, the IPC plays no role in the determination or assessment of SSI projects. Assessment times for SSI projects are also significantly quicker.
Perhaps to divert attention back off this, the government has recently made some big announcements in the planning arena.
The NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes recently requested the Productivity Commissioner to conduct a review of the IPC and report back to the Minister by mid-December 2019.
The review will examine, among other things, the operations and processes of the Commission in the State’s planning framework and whether it is in the public interest to maintain an IPC.
The government has also taken another step to prevent the regulation of scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions in mining approvals like what we saw in the United Wambo project.
For a coalmine, scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions are largely from the burning of the coal after it is sold into the market, including overseas. It’s like selling a car to someone and then being held responsible for the emissions they burn while driving that car. Nations have agreed to take responsibility for national emissions, and it is neither practical nor plausible for a state government agency to determine or manage the responses of other nations.
NSW Minister for Resources John Barilaro said the government will take legislative and other policy action to provide clarity on how ‘Scope 3’ emissions are treated within the NSW planning assessment system.
This legislation will be highly welcomed as the increasing uncertainty on how ‘Scope 3’ emissions are treated within the NSW planning assessment system has become a significant barrier to investment in NSW and a real threat to jobs and the economy, particularly in regional NSW.
While all these actions are welcomed, more action will be needed to restore confidence in the NSW planning system. Uncertainty has been caused to a large extent by the current role of the IPC as part of the planning assessment process.
The planning process is inconsistent and difficult to navigate, and makes investment in NSW unattractive. Of course, projects of scale like those in mining should have to pass through a filter that ensures genuine merit, accountability and the correct regulatory framework to be compliant and to be in the public interest. All voices should have a chance to be heard but approval should not be based on ideological views. Most importantly, the system needs to be streamlined so that timeframes are reasonable and do not drag on for years and years.
Let’s hope the post review future of planning delivers something of real value, a sensible approach and efficiency.
Hunter Valley mines provide onsite work placement opportunities to local students, as part of an initiative to highlight pathways for local youth and promote a future in our industry.
Mines and organisations around the Hunter have committed to supporting young people through a number of programs and school to work initiatives. Most recently, Bengalla Mining Company and Glencore welcomed Hunter Valley students on to the mine site as part of work placement.
Bengalla joined forces with Youth Express to facilitate the work placement, enabling Muswellbrook High School Students Aidan Butchard and Justin Ryan to receive 35 hours of practical on the job experience in Elecro-technology as part of their HSC studies at Muswellbrook TAFE.
The experienced technicians at Bengalla created a varied schedule that enabled both students to gain experience across the workshop, infrastructure and breakdown crews to further enhance their knowledge for the electrical course that they are studying.
Youth Express is a not-for-profit organisation that works closely with industry, schools and TAFE to place students in real-life work placement opportunities. These placements are a mandatory requirement for senior students undertaking Vocational Education as part of their HSC. ‚ÄúIt is great that Bengalla are supporting senior high school students in their chosen vocational subject area and their HSC,‚ÄĚ said Jane Thompson, Work Placement Team Leader at Youth Express.
‚ÄúIt gives the students real life workplace experience and employers the opportunity to identify potential apprentices.‚ÄĚ
Glencore‚Äôs Mt Owen Glendell Mine has also been providing support to students looking to make a career in the mining industry, hosting Year 10 student Callan Hungerford from St Catherine‚Äôs Catholic College Singleton.
Callan made contact with Mt Owen back in March asking if work experience was possible, which due to COVID-19 was postponed. Fortunately, still very keen to get some valuable Year 10 work experience in Mining-Environmental Science, Callan made contact again in September and was able to come on board.
Tasked with a broad range of environmental science and engineering aspects including environmental monitoring & compliance, rehabilitation inspections, biodiversity offset area inspections, soil & water sampling, geology & coal sampling, surveying, blasting, operations supervision and coal handling & preparation to name a few; Callan spent time with personnel ranging from graduates through to manager level within the business.
‚ÄúThe work experience program I participated in with Mt Owen Glendell Operations gave me the unique opportunity to experience what it is like to work in a local coal mine,‚ÄĚ Callan said.
Although living in Singleton, Callan said he had never been in a mine to see its operations. ‚ÄúI couldn‚Äôt believe the sheer magnitude of the pits ‚Äď they are enormous, and each person plays a part in bringing the operations together, to not only produce one of Australia‚Äôs biggest exports, but also employment to our local community,‚ÄĚ he added.
‚ÄúI was also able to sit in a dump truck and an operator took me out to experience what it feels like to collect a load; I had no idea how massive this vehicle was until I was standing on the ground looking up at it!‚ÄĚ
Callan was able to experience job roles directly related to an Environmental Officer and multidiscipline Engineering (Mining, Surveying & Process).
It‚Äôs opportunities like these presented by Glencore and Bengalla that highlight the pathways available for youth in the local area. It‚Äôs also a great way for employees to identify potential apprentices.
Giving students work placement opportunities to further solidify their knowledge and gain further insight into career pathways is something that not only supports local young people, but also promotes a future in the resources industry.
Bengalla prioritises the development of school to work pathways, and support education for local students as part of their strategic map, through a number of ways. Fiona Hartin, Community Relations Specialist at Bengalla Mining Company, says the mine actively participates in Career Days at Muswellbrook High School and invites Year 10 students on site for work experience. ‚ÄúWe are always striving to develop effective linkages between the school to work initiatives that highlight pathways for youth in the local area,‚ÄĚ she said.
‚ÄúWe are more than happy to have been able to facilitate this and see this as a partnership that will continue long into the future to benefit young local students.‚ÄĚ
This was evident with the experiences and opportunities organised for the two students. They were placed with experienced technicians and rotated across different areas within the business. With electricians who work on planned maintenance, breakdown crews as well as within their infrastructure team; there was plenty of opportunity for Aidan and Justin to experience a day in the life of an electrician and get hands on.
Equally Glencore supports their local communities by welcoming and attracting talented young people to experience the ins and outs and endless opportunities of the resources industry. Anthony Billings is a Glencore Environment & Community graduate himself and was excited to be sharing his knowledge with Callan. ‚ÄúWhether it is science, engineering, or the environment if there is an opportunity to support the passion of today‚Äôs youth it will only benefit the future of today‚Äôs industry,‚ÄĚ said Anthony.
‚ÄúAs a Graduate myself I am passionate about the environment and the legacy left behind after mining; it was great to provide my own knowledge and advice to Callan while he explores his passion in the environment.‚ÄĚ
Discovering the different pathways into a career in mining, or any other industry for that matter, is vital in promoting a future for our local youth. It‚Äôs great to see companies like Glencore and Bengalla Mining Company taking charge in supporting the future of our industry. Callan summed up his experience by thanking Glencore‚Äôs Mt Owen Glendell management and team for giving him the opportunity to experience different roles in the field he is looking at for his future. ‚ÄúI am very grateful to the Mt Owen and Glendell personnel that showed me their roles and educated me on how they contribute to the mines‚Äô overall operations,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúI am looking forward to continuing with my education with a goal of joining the mining sector in the future.‚ÄĚ
IMG: Callan Hungerford from St Catherine’s Catholic College Singleton on site at Glencore’s Mt Owen Glendell Mine
Learning to Lead
This month we share the inspiring story of how Leah Miller became NSW Mining‚Äôs 2020 Exceptional Young Woman in Mining. We caught up with Leah to hear about her journey and what it‚Äôs like to become a role model for young women.
Leah is the CHPP Maintenance Delivery Superintendent at Yancoal‚Äôs Mt Thorley Warkworth Mine. She‚Äôs not only the first female to hold the role, but also the first to do so without a trade or engineering qualification. Her story is proof that with determination, hard work and a willingness to learn there really are no limits to where a career in mining can take you.
Raised on a dairy farm in Victoria, Leah‚Äôs a country girl at heart. Life on the farm meant not being scared to get your hands dirty. It also instilled in Leah the attitude to ‚Äėget in and get the job done‚Äô. Growing up, Leah also moved schools a lot which was a tough but valuable experience.
‚ÄúMoving around a lot taught me how to make connections and to interact with people from all walks of life,‚ÄĚ Leah said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a skill that has served me well and I wouldn‚Äôt be where I am today without it.‚ÄĚ
When it came time for university, Leah did a Bachelor of Business and Commerce at Bond University on the Gold Coast. Upon finishing her degree she entered a Rio Tinto Graduate Program as a Business Analyst in 2012, expecting to spend the next 18 months working at Hunter Valley Operations before moving on.
‚ÄúI hadn‚Äôt really considered a career in the mining industry but the program seemed like a great opportunity so I decided to give it a go. It was while I was in this role that everything changed. The downturn hit and I began working with teams all across the business to identify ways to save money. I‚Äôm proud to say that during this challenging period working as part of a team we identified millions of dollars of cost savings.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúBefore that happened I was feeling a little unsatisfied with the predictability of the role. These new challenges gave me a real sense of accomplishment and I saw what you could achieve as part of a bigger team. I got to see how one side of the business could tangibly improve the other side. It made me want to learn more and do more. It was then I decided I wanted to move to an operational role.‚ÄĚ
Leah knew that it would be a difficult transition to move from the commercial to the operational side of the business. She began to look for other people with her background who had moved across to other roles thinking they could provide a road map on how to transition, but it turned out only rarely had it ever been done before.
Despite this Leah was determined to take on an operational role and began exploring options within mining, maintenance and CHPP. Thanks to her persistence, and no doubt her skill at connecting with people, before long she was promoted into a Specialist Contractor Management role.
‚ÄúThis role really opened my eyes to the art of influencing people and what you could achieve as part of a team and was a good stepping stone. I continued to build relationships and chase down opportunities and thanks to a manager who had faith in me I got the role of Rebuild Coordinator with the maintenance team in 2017.‚ÄĚ
For the next year Leah oversaw over 150 HME rebuilds leading a team of 140 personnel. Where some might have struggled being thrown in the deep end, Leah thrived. She established herself as a strong leader and managed her first capital project to completion, on time, on budget and, most importantly, safely.
‚ÄúNot minding getting my hands dirty sure came in handy for my first capital project,‚ÄĚ Leah says with a laugh. ‚ÄúIt was one of those projects where you jumped one hurdle and another would come up. It was extremely stressful but I relished the challenge.‚ÄĚ
Then after only 10 months in the role Leah stepped up into the role of Project & Shutdown Superintendent when the former leader unexpectedly became ill. It was a stressful time for her and her team but Leah kept them motivated and continued to deliver high value outcomes despite the pressure they were under.
With so many successes under her belt and a reputation established as a respected leader it was no surprise when in October 2019 Leah was rewarded with the role of CHPP Maintenance Delivery Superintendent where she became responsible for leading a large team while managing maintenance priorities.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve had our challenges since I stepped into the role, especially with the pandemic, but we have exceeded our availability target by 1.5% thanks to the entire team. I‚Äôm proud to have been able to lead them and help them maximise their skills so we could achieve this together.‚ÄĚ
Through every role Leah has shown that she can step up to any challenge and is a role model not just to women, but to everyone. A worthy winner of the award, yet Leah says she was very surprised to be nominated let alone win.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm really very grateful and honoured to have won, it‚Äôs recognition of all the hard work I‚Äôve put in. During the presentation of the award so many people were there with me. All the people who contributed. From the warehouse to HR to the infrastructure to the managers. People that believed in me and helped me and taught me. I wouldn‚Äôt have got to where I am today without those people.‚ÄĚ
Although she‚Äôs now a strong advocate for the awards, Leah said she didn‚Äôt know too much about them before being nominated but now recognises how important they are.
‚ÄúAwards like these are vital, not only to recognise all the women out there doing fantastic things, but to promote the opportunities that are available in the mining industry and show young girls what‚Äôs possible.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOur business like many in our industry still needs more female representation in the workforce. Here we have only 12.1% of female representation and only 2 out of 13 operational superintendent roles are filled by women. The business has done a lot in terms of improving facilities and spaces but we still have a way to go.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI‚Äôd like to be able to tell young people and especially young girls who are still in school or considering careers that there is more out there than you can ever imagine. In our industry there are roles and jobs that most people don‚Äôt even know about.‚ÄĚ
Leah has plenty of advice that she‚Äôs keen to share. Her drive to learn has been a key element in her success. ‚ÄúIf you haven‚Äôt got the skill, get out there and look, see, touch, feel. I‚Äôve found that nearly every person I‚Äôve worked with has been willing to teach me. If you show you are interested people will respond and happily share their knowledge.‚ÄĚ
Leah also advises that you should take every opportunity that comes along. Be willing to say yes and take that chance.
‚ÄúThe best advice I was ever given was don‚Äôt wait until you‚Äôre ready for your next job before you go for it. You might never be ready. I think this is especially important advice for women who are more likely to underestimate their skills.‚ÄĚ
And those skills don‚Äôt have to come from a degree or qualification. Leah has learnt that experience often means more than a piece of paper. Whilst study is important nothing beats real world knowledge.
‚ÄúThe other advice I have to give is find mentors and people who will support you. ‚ÄėYou can‚Äôt be who you can‚Äôt see‚Äô. And don‚Äôt necessarily look for mentors who are at the top, often the people who are one or two rungs above you are the ones who can help the most. Think outside your department or role for mentors too.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI‚Äôve also found programs like WIMnet to be valuable. LinkedIn is great too, not only for the contacts you can make, it also has a lot of online courses and resources and most of them are free. At the end of the day it‚Äôs about expanding your awareness, getting out and trying things, you never know where you‚Äôll end up. I never thought I‚Äôd be doing this that‚Äôs for sure but I would never go back. It‚Äôs challenging and rewarding and fulfilling.‚ÄĚ
After talking to Leah, I was impressed by her story, but what impressed me even more was discovering later that she has achieved all this whilst facing the challenges of managing an autoimmune disease, a disease which has severely impacted her work and home life. Instead of allowing the illness to obstruct her, it seems instead she has used it to strengthen her by giving her a greater understanding and empathy towards others in the workplace.
What‚Äôs next for Leah? ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not really sure,‚ÄĚ she muses. ‚ÄúI‚Äôll be looking to my mentors for direction, maybe a little soul searching, and of course I‚Äôm always looking for what can I do next.‚ÄĚ
Warwick‚Äôs Wish for better Co-Existence
Warwick Moppett is striving for better engagement and co-existence between agriculture and resources industries in a bid to drive a more positive future for Northern NSW.
From the farm to the work site, Warwick Moppett has always been passionate about the big industries that bring knowledge, new skills and groundwork to rural communities.
Warwick has been on and off the farm since his father purchased ‚ÄėEveleigh‚Äô in 1988 and at 51 years of age his passion for the land hasn‚Äôt subsided. He is now in partnership with his brother Peter operating over two farms in the Tooraweenah district of NSW.
When he‚Äôs not on the farm with his wife Kylie and two children, Warwick is a land access advisor for an oil and gas producer in Narrabri, NSW. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a great opportunity for me as I‚Äôm able to mix it with the farm,‚ÄĚ said Warwick.
‚ÄúLike so many farmers my other skills are not ticketed but I know how to work and so this industry has looked after me and provided my family security during the dry times on the farm.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI‚Äôm living a great life balanced between the farm and the industry.‚ÄĚ
His time with the petroleum industry began in 2009 when Warwick was a full-time farmer. Independent oil and gas producers were exploring and required access to the ‚ÄėEverleigh‚Äô farm. Acknowledging that at the time things were tough on the farm, Warwick went ahead with the opportunity and the results were positive.
‚ÄúIn 2012 I was asked to tell my story to other landholders considering exploration; I did,‚ÄĚ said Warwick.
Later that year Warwick was offered a job with those same producers and from there grew his passion for creating a positive dialogue for coexistence.
During the drought in particular Warwick was busy, often working on the farm to assist feeding the sheep on weekends to relieve their employees. Day in and day out for 3 years, the only food they had to offer the animals was their grazing bins. ‚ÄúDrought can be soul sapping,‚ÄĚ said Warwick.
‚ÄúHowever, for 3 days a week I‚Äôd return to off farm work and focus on the task at hand, in my case liaising with other great farms doing it hard through my role in Narrabri.‚ÄĚ
Proud to have not called on the public purse to assist through the drought, Warwick said it‚Äôs one of the positives of successfully integrating two careers. He added, ‚ÄúThis is one of my personal goals – to bring the opportunities to local farmers and just reduce the absolute reliance on farm income.‚ÄĚ
Working in the petroleum industry Warwick learnt a lot about the environment, health and safety and risk management. And in all of those areas, took back learnings from work and applied them on the farm. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve engaged Health and Safety experts to assist making the farm safer,‚ÄĚ he said.
For a long time, agriculture and mining have been the big industries in the North West that have driven the local economy, providing jobs and bringing people to the region. And for a long time, there has been debate on whether these two industries can coexist.
There is no debate that tractors are not growing on trees. There is also no debate that farming has been vital in leading sustainability in primary industries. ‚ÄúThe question is not no or yes, but how we can operate to mutually benefit,‚ÄĚ said Warwick.
‚ÄúThere is no winner if we try to prove who is the biggest or more important; we need each other.
‚ÄúIt always strikes me as strange when people drive up in a vehicle (any type, they all need a hole in the ground to make them) and complain about mining without acknowledging the reason they are here is that our two industries, farming and mining, do coexist.
‚ÄúThere should always be robust honest dialogue that raises the differences of opinion and we need an umpire that arbitrates the discussion and ensures the important facts are clear.‚ÄĚ
So, what‚Äôs next for the co-existence of mining and agriculture? Warwick says we need to maintain some simple truths in our education about the coexistence.
‚ÄúA litre of milk requires grass and water, some steel and energy, a truck and plastic carton, and finally a glass,‚ÄĚ said Warwick.
Put simply, both industries continue to improve performance through the development of new technologies and systems. Both industries deliver essential products that all Australian‚Äôs need, use and consume. Our miners consume local farmed produce like beef and wheat, and our farmers make use of locally mined products like metals for fencing. Our coal mines also provide off farm employment for farmers, including during times of drought.
The need is to now make both of our industries sustainable by developing systems that effectively manage issues like land and water use. A balanced approach is essential if we want to move forward. ‚ÄúLand use pressure is going to continue to increase as our children subdivide, buy a house or flat and we live longer,‚ÄĚ said Warwick.
‚ÄúHaving a system that acknowledges the key stakeholders and listens to all of the issues, to bring facts and science to bare is integral to confidence to live in our community.‚ÄĚ
Warwick is a great example of how we can live and work together towards a brighter, more inclusive future. Both industries are essential to our local communities and wider Australian economy. It‚Äôs time to accept that effective coexistence is the way forward in order to mutually benefit both industries and the communities surrounding them.
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