Group Planning to Build Largest Coalmine in Queensland to Hire Aussies First

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 15, 2012 3:43 PM EST

The Adani Group, an Indian conglomerate, is planning to build a new open-cut and underground mine in Queensland. The Carmichael Coal Mine, touted to be the largest in the Australian state, would be mostly on the Moray Downs cattle station about 100 kilometres north of Emerald.

Adani, which just finalised the purchase of the property from grazier Graeme Acton for $110 million, plans to also build a new town, runway, railway and port facilities. The firm is expected to spend $6 billion on the entire project. Adani estimates the mine would yield 60 million tonnes of coal per year based on a mine life of more than 100 years.

The conglomerate promised to hire Australians first before hiring overseas workers, although there are no definite estimates yet on the number of miners the company would need.

Queensland Mining Minister Stirling Hinchliffe went one step further when he said that he prefers that Adani hire locally first.

"I have given a very clear message to the companies involved, including Mr Adani directly, that we have a very high expectation about the role that Queenslanders will play in these projects," Mr Hinchcliffe said.

However, he admitted central Queensland's Galilee Basin lacks infrastructure to cope with the planned Adani mine project. The minister said Alpha is the closest town to the planned Adani venture which has a population of 500 people, which would only be 10 per cent of the estimated 5,000 people needed during the construction phase of the mining project.

Federal Queensland MP Bob Katter also opposed the lobby of mining firms to fly in unskilled foreign workers to fill job shortages in the state. He pointed out that there are 10,000 north Queensland residents who are jobless.

However, the Queensland Resources Council said in its November Growth Outlook Study that the resources sector in the state would need over 40,000 more workers in the next 8 years which the current labour market could not adequately meet.

The report identified skills in shortage as that of technicians, trade workers and machinery operators.

For a mining company to be allowed to bring foreign workers to Australia using the Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMA), its project must have a capital expenditure of $2 billion or more and a maximum workforce of 1,500 employees. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen disclosed that so far only one EMA has been submitted but the ministry is discussing more EMAs with other mining firms.

Adani's project, however, could face some opposition from rural lobby group AgForce which expressed concern that the planned mine could destroy prime cattle grazing land. AgForce President Brent Finlay wants to know the size of land to be mined and to be retained for cattle because the former could never be used again for agricultural production.

Rob Williams, Division Six councilor of the Isaac Region, said he hoped Adani would asphalt the road to Charters Towers which would benefit the pastoral owners who live in the area. He believes the planned development would not destroy the quality of the place's pasture lands since the mine would be mostly marginal land.

Ahead of the mine's operation, Adani secured a $1.83-billion long-term lease on the X50 Abbot Point Coal Terminal.

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