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Coal Business is Family Business

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Our front cover image this month features Bowen Coking Coal Executive Chairman, Nick Jorss, with his mum Carol, son Lincoln, and brother Greg. Because despite dozens of very important dignitaries being in attendance at the official re-opening of Bowen Coking Coal’s Burton Mine, Nick believes that no-one is more important than family.

Large scale coal mine companies are complex businesses and more often than not they lack one important thing. Family values. This is not the case for Bowen Coking Coal.

On May 4, we joined Nick and his family, and hundreds of other people, including Senators, Mayors, MPs, employees, local suppliers, and community representatives, to celebrate the re-opening of Burton Mine.

Bowen Coking Coal Founder and Executive Director, Gerhard Redelinghuys was in attendance, beaming throughout the proceedings. Like Nick, not a nicer coal man will you find then Gerhard. One of life’s true gentlemen is how Gerhard was described to me and it certainly came across when we chatted. Viv Forbes was proudly there as well. Viv is a veteran of the coal industry who had the vision to kick off the original Burton mine in the 1990s.

Talking casually to employees for an hour or so before proceedings kicked off, it was apparent that they were genuinely happy to be there and be part of the future of Bowen Coking Coal and the newly reopened mine. I rarely hear people openly say they love their job, appreciate the company they work for, and rave about conditions like camp life, yet these were the resounding opinions freely offered to me by everyone I chatted to.

The coal industry was built by visionaries, and in this day and age they are thin on the ground.

Bowen Coking Coal Executive Chairman, Nick Jorss, is a one of these rare breeds, and while success is never guaranteed, there are plenty of markers as to why I personally believe this venture, company and man are not only a very good bet, but a fine example of a bespoke approach that focuses on the details to achieve the greater goal. Those details start with people.

Much of this story comes from Nick’s impassioned words at the reopening. On paper it is sometimes difficult to convey the tone, attitude, and beliefs of the people you are talking about. Nick stated that the Burton Mine re-opening is one small step in creating a stable, bright, and abundant future of which we can all be very proud. When those words are delivered with genuine passion in someone’s voice, it’s difficult not to believe them.

Nearly 180 years after Leichhardt first discovered coal deposits in the Bowen Basin, Bowen Coking Coal is now carving a new chapter for our history as part of one of Australia’s largest export industries.

The Burton Mine sits on lands of the Widi people, upon whose traditional land the Lenton project to the north sits. The company is committed to many years of working with both groups respectfully and constructively.

Nick delivered some very basic and simple truths as to why this mine and this industry has plenty of life in for years to come.

“Coal is a vital ingredient in renewable energy, and in order to transition to renewables we must be certain that we have sufficient coal to make it happen, not to mention keeping life traveling along at the same time,” said Nick.

“World steel and energy demand will continue its rapid growth, driven by ongoing industrialisation in the developing world, and a drive for decarbonisation in the developed world. Advances in computing and technology are only accelerating that trend. It’s a simple fact.”

Reading the market and society’s future, Nick also knows that rapid decarbonisation requires vast quantities of natural resources and will unleash a mining boom at a scale never seen before, including for our high-quality coking coal. Queensland can lead the world in supplying our minerals into this mining boom to benefit our communities, if we get the policy right.

One year ago, Bowen was yet to produce its first tonne of coal. Today they have produced over 1.3 million ‘Run of Mine’ tonnes from their first two operations, with a third well underway. In that short time, they have created over 700 regional jobs across their mining operations.

As a company, they’ve invested over $200 million to acquire and restart the Burton complex and Bluff mine. Much of this was wages for employees and spending with local suppliers and contractors. Their royalties to the Queensland Government to date have already totalled $22 million. The steady-state target is for five million tonnes of ‘Run of Mine’ coal next year.

Nick explained in very convincing terms, “Steel and low-cost energy underpin all modern societies, and will be in high demand as third-world nations modernise, dragging populations out of poverty. We’ve seen that in China in recent decades, and it’s well underway in India, both of which are seeing record growth in coal demand.

“Steel also drives decarbonisation. The production of wind farms, solar farms and related transmission depends on low-cost steel and energy. The steel sector is responsible for 7% of human carbon dioxide emissions, but we cannot decarbonise the other 93% without it.”

“With such a positive impact on quality of life, we should celebrate the men and women here in Central Queensland who produce the energy and materials that are the foundation of our modern world.

“Bowen Coking Coal plans to play its part in this massive growth opportunity. As the Bowen Basin’s newest independent coal producer, we’re here to meet the growing demand for energy and steelmaking coal. Most importantly, we’re here to grow local employment and support suppliers, contractors and their communities,” Nick passionately concluded.

Nick, yourself, and your crew were a pleasure, and @ The Coalface is proud to endorse the achievements of Bowen Coking Coal. We look forward to many years of telling your stories. Keep up the good work and we can’t wait for our next visit.

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