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:
— Mt Leyshon
— Battle Mountain
Oil & Gas:
— Qld Magnesia
— 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.
What are the political issues for mining?
Access to Land
— No-go zones
— Security of tenure
— Environmental overkill
— Too many approvals
— Taxes and Royalties
— Government Monopolies
— 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.
- Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
- Put Windmills in National Parks
- Magnifying National Disasters
- Please Don't Feed the Animals
- Buy Birdsville Made?
- The Economics of Flood Risk
- Touring Bureaucrats
- Our slip-shod laws to blame
- Why Wind Won't Work
- A Profusion of "Prices"
- R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
- The Carbon Pollution Lie
- Closing Down Australia
- The Anti-Industry
- The Pyramid Builders
- Carbon Tax Bribery
- Crown Monopolies
- Carbon Tax Job Losses
- What Next, a Tax on Water?
- Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
- Growth Mythology
- The Tax Collection Industry
- Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
- The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
- "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
- Poll speech sets record
- The Emissions Trading Casino
- The Contract Society
- A Model Ministry
- The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
- Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
- Stuck on Red
- Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
- Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
- The Middle of the Road
- United against taxes
- Call for Govt administrator
- Property & Prosperity
- "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
- No End to Fuelish Policies?
- The Right to Discriminate
- Sell the CES
- Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
- Creating Unemployment
- Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
- 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
- Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
- Who's Who in the Workers Party
- David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
- Caught in a welfare whirlpool
- Global Warming Season
- Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
- WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
- Political branch formed
- Ron Manners on the Workers Party
- Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
- The New Brisbane Line?
- Carbon Lies
- We Mine to Live
- Save the taxpayer
- Solving Three Canberra Problems
- Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
- Carbon Tax Retrospective?
- Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
- Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
- Two Big Climate Taxes
- Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
- Atlas of Australia
- Shutting Out The Sun
- Safety Mania
- Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
- Hobbling the Competition
- Cubic Currency Coming
- "Dear Government"
- Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
- What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
- Smoking, Health and Freedom
- Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
- The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
- The New Federalism
- Sunset for Solar Subsidies
- The mouse will roar
- The Road to Homelessness
- Planning & Prosperity
- Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
- Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
- Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
- Our homeless regulation refugees
- Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
- Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air