Share the Story:

Bowen Basin Mining Club Coalface

I was honoured to be present at the official opening of Pembroke Resources’ Olive Downs Complex a few weeks ago. Whichever way you look at it, the project is a resounding success to date, and Pembroke is to be heartily congratulated.

The question on many onlookers’ minds seems to be whether the future holds any more celebrations of new coal operations in Queensland. And it’s a fair question, given the current political and social undercurrents doing their best to undermine an industry that has literally built Queensland’s enviable infrastructure over the last 50 to 60 years.

But as many would have read in the coverage of the Olive Downs Complex official opening, here’s the hard evidence that a new coal operation can deliver results that earn considerable export results, at the same time demonstrating just the start of what can be achieved towards improving environmental outcomes.

From the earliest planning stages, Pembroke designed the Olive Downs Complex to lead the way in a lower-carbon future. Already, the runs are on the board that prove that sustainable AND profitable development of new coal mines is not only possible but imperative to the local communities, state and federal coffers and Australia’s reputation as an exporter of the highest quality metallurgical coal.

Over its 79 year planned operations, Olive Downs will generate more than $10 billion in royalties for the Queensland Government, filtering down to household economies all around the state.

Stage One of the Olive Downs Mine is delivering 6 million tonnes of run-of-mine steelmaking coal per annum, working towards the approved capacity of 20 million tonnes per annum in the future. Construction and operations have already resulted in 700 construction jobs and 600 new jobs, breathing new life and hope into the surrounding CQ communities where the majority of the workforce is located.

While true ‘green steel’ remains on a somewhat dim horizon, Pembroke has taken deliberate steps to plan and deliver projects in tandem with site development that contribute strongly to Scope 2 and 3 emissions reductions. The headline acts to date include:

  • World-first implementation of CAT’s latest autonomous control technology for trucks and drills
  • Around 20,000 hectares of designated conservation areas
  • A specialised Koalas and Greater Gliders clinic and research facilities
  • A planned 10-hectare solar farm and green energy project designed to offset power demand
  • Around 20,000 hectares of pastoral activities
  • Supporting Olive Downs Complex personnel to reside locally
  • Supported 30 community projects/organisations across the Isaac region during construction

At the opening ceremony, Pembroke Resources Chairman and CEO Barry Tudor said, “From our early planning stages through to operations, we have applied a fresh approach to the development of the Complex to exceed contemporary expectations of environmental management, conservation, emissions reduction, social responsibility and governance. What we showed our guests today is just the beginning.”

Tudor also shared following the opening that it took 3,652 days to get the project up and running – nearly 10 years exactly. While it’s an interesting fact, it also comes with a warning: we need to be galvanising action today to cater for the world we want to see 3,652 days from now. Deciding in 10 years’ time that we should have built more mines is simply too late.

In our latest BBMC Crib Room podcast, we talked with Nick Rees, co-founder and Managing Director of Bridgend Capital Advisory, about what he sees that future looking like from a financial viewpoint. As he commented, it’s crystal clear that the global demand profile for high-quality steelmaking coal remains high for decades. And while production may have different players and operational strategies, there are many expansion and development opportunities ahead for the Bowen Basin.

But with approvals, negotiations and legalities running into double digits of years, Pembroke’s (and others like Adani’s) experience stands as evidence that the sooner we enter into brave conversations with the right people, using our voices to outweigh the vocal minority, the sooner a sensibly resourced future will emerge.

Pembroke’s forward-thinking development of Olive Downs, coming on the heels of Carmichael’s coal export successes, gives us all plenty of talking points. Let’s take the conversation beyond the safe company of like-minded colleagues and into arenas of influence.

Jodie Currie

Director, Bowen Basin Mining Club

Share the Story: