Local impacts from big projects

By Penny Langfield

Discussions about super-sized mining projects dominated the Major Projects Conference 2010 in Brisbane last week but small communities were not forgotten.

Mining companies used the event, organised by the Queensland Department of Infrastructure and Planning, to outline their ideas for investing in local communities and councils.

Project leaders and government representatives addressed about 1000 delegates from industry and government on the big-ticket infrastructure items on Queensland’s agenda.

Mike Wilke, senior project advisor at Xstrata’s Wandoan Coal Project, outlined the steps his company was taking to bolster educational opportunities in the local area, about 380 kilometres south-west of Gladstone.

“We’re contributing to a science centre at Wandoan School. Wandoan School only goes to grade ten so we’ve really got to get children interested in the technical and the trades, the sciences… to develop education that’s suitable for working in the workforce,” Mr Wilke said.

Xstrata plans to contribute $720,000 towards a partnership with the Queensland Department of Education and Training for extra school equipment, literacy and numeracy programs and a school-industry liaison officer.

It is also collaborating with local councils.

“We are negotiating currently an infrastructure deed with Western Downs Regional Council to build what’s necessary for Wandoan,” Mr Wilke said.

“We’re talking about upgrading the town water, town sewage, new landfill, aerodrome, land for subdivision for houses and local road relocations.”

Mark Imber, manager of environment and approvals at Waratah Coal, also addressed delegates to discuss its proposed China First project in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland.

Mr Imber said that although no figures have been confirmed, Waratah was collaborating with five councils in the Galilee area to ensure that local government infrastructure would be able to meet the demands of its mining program.

“They’re keen on the three [main mining] players which is Hancock’s, us and AMCI to contribute some money upfront.  We used a [hypothetical] scenario of $40 million each per annum, and that gives the councils the opportunity to own a bucket of money of about $120 million, so they can choose the infrastructure that best suits their purposes in terms of supporting the growth.” 

Mr Imber said the main town near Waratah’s China First project, Alpha, about 500 kilometres west of Gladstone, was not ready for the influx of people that will come with the mine.

“Alpha has one paramedic, one part-time ambulance driver and one policeman, so with 2500 people from us, the same from Hancock’s and AMCI, you’re going to be seriously under-resourced,” he said.

Delegates also heard about major road projects undertaken by a local government authority from Scott Stewart, executive manager of Brisbane City Council’s Major Infrastructure Projects Office.

Mr Stewart said the TransApex scheme, which includes the new Clem7 tunnel, Go Between Bridge, Airport Link, Northern Link tunnel (to start construction late 2010) and the pending East-West Link, were all aimed at easing congestion and reducing travel times.

He said congestion was inhibiting Brisbane’s growth and these large projects had already significantly reduced travel times.

“It was about bypassing the CBD, forming a ring road around the CBD, closing the gaps in the motorway network and also providing those river crossings that we’re lacking,” Mr Stewart said.

“Over time these are all proving to be critical pieces of infrastructure.”

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