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An Address by Viv Forbes to the Defence Industry Study Course, Brisbane, October 17, 1995, reprinted in Forbes’ Our Sacred Land & Other Essays (first published by Business Queensland and Common Sense in 1995), issue no. 115.About the Author»

I understand I’m to give you an idea of the future of mining in Queensland.

Anyone who hopes to understand the future needs to understand both the past and the present.

The past which is relevant to mining starts about 500 million years ago when the ancient rocks of the Mount Isa area were formed. This area is one of the greatest base metal provinces in the world. It contains a Persian Gulf of metal riches — copper, silver, lead, zinc, uranium, rare earths, gold, cobalt, phosphate and sulphur.

Much wealth has already been produced from these ancient rocks. Much more remains for those with the intelligence and energy to discover and extract it, and the strength to hold and defend what they find.

The next great geological even happened about 300 million years ago with the explosive growth of the great forests of the Carboniferous era. That event produced Queensland’s greatest asset — the coking coal of the Bowen Basin. How we handle this great asset will, more than anything else, determine the prosperity and security of future generations of Queenslanders.

A second era of forests spread over Queensland about 200 million years ago. These forests supported the dinosaurs and produced the huge thermal coal deposits of the Surat and Moreton Basins. They will produce light, warmth and power for many future generations of humans.

About 50 million years ago came the era of the teeming seas. Sea levels rose and fell and marine life was prolific. The oil and gas resources of the Cooper Basin and the enormous oil shale resources of Central Queensland owe their existence to the organic material that fell to the bottom of these ancient seas.

Geological history, and human history, consist of long periods of stability, punctuated by abrupt disruptions (which are usually unexpected, and often catastrophic). The old orders are swept away and a completely new era commences.

On the geological map of Queensland, each of the blobs of red or purple along the backbone of the state represent the memorial stones of past geological revolutions — volcanic eruptions, igneous intrusions, earthquakes and faults.

Many of these intrusions brought metal riches with them — tin and wolfram on the Tablelands, copper at Mt Morgan, Stanthorpe Tin, Anakie sapphires, and the many gold deposits from the Palmer River and Charter Towers in the North, to Gympie and Talgai in the South.

In recent geological history (the last million years or so) the persistent processes of surface oxidation, surface enrichment, erosion and deposition have created deposits such as the fabulous aluminium laterites of Weipa, the nickel laterites of Greenvale and Marlborough, the mineral sand deposits along the coast and the alluvial gold and tin deposits.

So this is the raw material which our geological history has provided for the mining industry:

  • The base metals of Carpentaria.
  • Coking coal of the Bowen Basin.
  • Thermal coal of the Surat and Moreton Basins.
  • Oil, gas and oil shale resources.
  • Gold, tin, wolfram, molybdenum and other metals.
  • Weipa bauxite.
  • Minerals sands, gravel.

Man’s history started but a few seconds ago on the geological time scale. For ages men lived a precarious existence as hunters and gatherers. They hunted with bows and spears and dug roots with sharpened sticks. Then they discovered how to use minerals to produce tools — starting with stone axes and knives, then metal coins to facilitate trade, copper utensils, bronze swords, lead pipes, tin cans, steel ploughs, alloy engines, tungsten armaments, titanium rockets, atom bombs and nuclear power plants.

The miners and prospectors have shaped the face of Queensland. The location and existence of many of our towns, railways and roads was determined by our prospectors and explorers.

Let’s look at a bit of economic history.

On every continent, mining and agriculture are the primary generators of new wealth. All other industries merely transport, process, trade, consume, regulate or tax the real products of these primary industries.

This is well illustrated  by the economic history of Australia. Back in the 1860’s mining and agriculture supplied 90% of our export income (50% mining, 40% rural). Gold and wool supported the nation. It was the land of gold and the golden fleece. As our early gold and copper mines were slowly exhausted by rising costs and falling reserves, mining’s share of exports fell to its low of 5% in the hungry 1920’s. But agriculture stepped in to fill the void and supplied 75% of our export income.

Today our rural industries are weakened by drought, greenies, taxes and government marketing boards. Mining is again shouldering the load and generating close to 50% of our export income, with agriculture about 20%. The unchanging reality is this — for all of our history, mining and agriculture have provided at least 60% of our export income. Generally, depression in one has been balanced by prosperity in the other. Heaven help us if both fall out of bed together.

Let’s look at mining in Queensland today. Mining today produces 44% of Queensland exports and its production is worth $5.6 billion. The value of coal exports alone is worth more than the combined value of the big four rural exports — meat, sugar, cereals and wool.

Queensland’s big mineral products are:

Coal — 63%
Copper — 11%
Gold — 8%
Bauxite — 4%
Lead, Zinc — 5%
Oil, Gas — 5%
Titanium — 2%
Other — 2%
Total — $5.6 billion

Queensland is Australia’s treasure house of many minerals.

The big mining producers in Queensland are:

Coal:
— BHP
— CRA
— ARCO
— QCT
— MIM
— Shell

Copper/Lead/Zinc:
— MIM

Bauxite:
— Comalco

Gold:
— Kidson
— Mt Leyshon
— Battle Mountain

Oil & Gas:
— Santos

Magnesite:
— Qld Magnesia

Titanium:
— Consolidated Rutile

Of course we must not forget the government stake in mining. When you calculate the government take of every dollar earned from mining, it becomes clear that governments run the biggest and most profitable extractive industry in the land.

That completes our survey of the past and the present. We have a huge state which has proven prospective for world class mineral deposits of many types. We also lead the world in many areas of exploration, mining technology, mine contracting, mineral processing and computer applications.

What About The Future?

Mining and agriculture will remain the bedrock competitive industries for Queensland. They will provide the export income and act as the base-load milch cows for all levels of government.

Where is the growth to come from? It is said, if you want to hunt elephants, you should go to elephant country. This is particularly pertinent to mining. Our existing industry shows where we have a competitive edge on geology, technology and transport economics — coal, base metals, gold, aluminium, magnesium, oil and gas and all the secondary and tertiary industries dependant on them. These will also loom large in our future.

Right now two sectors of Queensland mining are in a growth mood — coal and base metals.

At least 10 new coal mine developments are being studied intensely right now and as many as 5 new mines could be developed in the next 5 years.

The base metal excitement is in Carpentaria where at least 5 significant new developments are being studied.

Queensland also has enormous undeveloped resources of rock phosphate, oil shale and thermal coal. In addition, we have locked away untold mineral riches in parks, heritage areas, army training grounds and wilderness areas, and we have no idea of the oil and gas which probably lies hidden on the continental shelf off the coast.

Mining Issues

What are the political issues for mining?

Access to Land
— No-go zones
— Security of tenure

Development Obstacles
— Environmental overkill
— Too many approvals

Imposed Costs
— Taxes and Royalties
— Government Monopolies
— Tariffs
— Exchange rates

Labour Cost and Efficiency

Defence Aspects of Mining

Mining and farming have four features very relevant to defence:

1. They control huge resources of land and mineral wealth much of which is grossly undeveloped. These resources are defended by a handful of arrogant, pampered, unpopular Europeans living around the cost of an isolated island off the teeming continent of Asia. Far too many of them are on the beach, at the pub or on welfare. Every foreign tourist, every exchange student and every overseas technical mission sees both our wealth and our weakness.

Idle undefended resources are always a magnet of the hungry hordes. Today they come with cameras and observe with astonishment. One day, they will come back with guns. We can only hope we can stop them with an environmental impact statement or a world heritage order. I fear that is about all we’ll have.

2. Miners and farmers are the great decentralisers. They cannot choose to live on the Gold Coast or at King’s Cross. They must go to where the best minerals, the best soils and the best pastures are found. They are the only ones with a real hold on most of this vast continent.

3. Miners and farmers represent a substantial hidden militia. They are generally practical, independent people with useful versatile machinery, skills and equipment for outback communication and rugged vehicles. Every farmer and many miners have a heap of weapons in the wardrobe and can use them.

Together, miners and farmers could muster more decentralised forces than the army and the police forces put together. They will defend their land should then need arise.

4. Mining and farming are international industries which depend on world trade. Anything which threatens the security of the world seaborne shipping trade will threaten our industry. A blockade of just a handful of ports would quickly wipe out half of Australia’s export income. (I’m disappointed to notice there are no naval officers at this seminar. I hope we still have a navy?)

Government Policy and Mining

What can governments best do to help mining? Get the hell out of the way. Reduce taxes and repeal about half the laws and regulations (and it probably doesn’t matter which half). Stop changing the laws every session of parliament. Send parliament and most of the public service on a long overseas study tour and leave them there on full pay. (They will do less harm than they do here.) Give us access to land for exploration and secure tenure for mining and we and the farmers and our dependent industries will carry the nation, as we always have.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  2. Put Windmills in National Parks
  3. Magnifying National Disasters
  4. Please Don't Feed the Animals
  5. Buy Birdsville Made?
  6. The Economics of Flood Risk
  7. Touring Bureaucrats
  8. Our slip-shod laws to blame
  9. Why Wind Won't Work
  10. A Profusion of "Prices"
  11. R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
  12. The Carbon Pollution Lie
  13. Closing Down Australia
  14. The Anti-Industry
  15. The Pyramid Builders
  16. Carbon Tax Bribery
  17. Crown Monopolies
  18. Carbon Tax Job Losses
  19. What Next, a Tax on Water?
  20. Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
  21. Growth Mythology
  22. The Tax Collection Industry
  23. Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
  24. The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
  25. "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
  26. Poll speech sets record
  27. The Emissions Trading Casino
  28. The Contract Society
  29. A Model Ministry
  30. The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
  31. Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
  32. Stuck on Red
  33. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  34. Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
  35. The Middle of the Road
  36. United against taxes
  37. Call for Govt administrator
  38. Property & Prosperity
  39. "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
  40. No End to Fuelish Policies?
  41. The Right to Discriminate
  42. Sell the CES
  43. Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
  44. Creating Unemployment
  45. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  46. 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
  47. Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
  48. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  49. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  50. Caught in a welfare whirlpool
  51. Global Warming Season
  52. Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
  53. WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
  54. Political branch formed
  55. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  56. Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
  57. The New Brisbane Line?
  58. Carbon Lies
  59. We Mine to Live
  60. Save the taxpayer
  61. Solving Three Canberra Problems
  62. Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
  63. Carbon Tax Retrospective?
  64. Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
  65. Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
  66. Two Big Climate Taxes
  67. Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
  68. Atlas of Australia
  69. Shutting Out The Sun
  70. Safety Mania
  71. Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
  72. Hobbling the Competition
  73. Cubic Currency Coming
  74. "Dear Government"
  75. Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
  76. What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
  77. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  78. Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
  79. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  80. The New Federalism
  81. Sunset for Solar Subsidies
  82. The mouse will roar
  83. The Road to Homelessness
  84. Planning & Prosperity
  85. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  86. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  87. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  88. Our homeless regulation refugees
  89. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  90. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
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Forbes has long been active in politics, economic education, business and the global warming debate, and was winner of the Australian Adam Smith Award “For outstanding services to the Free Society” in 1986.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5