Saturday, 2 April 2011

Mixed Blessings

It’s in so many ways a mixed blessing……

Mining in the Surat Basin, that is.

I’ve just come home from a 2500km trip out to Charleville, across to Cunnamulla, and back, via St George. Just about everywhere (with the exception of the country around Cunnamulla), has exploration activity underway.

It’s hard to miss.

Apart from the signs (pictured) which direct people unfamiliar with the area to the test and drill sites, there are many other indications.

For example, you’ll notice kilometres of road with all the guide posts knocked down. This is a consequence of the transportation of miming dongas and machinery carried on wide load convoys. Where the road narrows, the guide posts are knocked down by the oversize load. They’re not repaired.

I wonder how far I’d get if I systematically destroyed a row of guide posts? Probably as far as the next cop shop I suspect.

You might also notice the hundreds of hired Toyota Land Cruisers parked at the airport at Roma, all with their little red flags on poles. They wait for the fly-in fly-out operators to collect them for a nine or thirteen day shift. They’re driven straight out to the sites, with only the petrol and grocery dollar seeping into the local economy. When the shift is over, they return to the Sunshine Coast or metropolitan Brisbane to spend their hard-earned.

Almost none of the contractors are local. Many of them are from South Africa or West Australia.

And don’t think you’re going to be able to book a motel in Roma or Chinchilla, unless you operate months ahead. The mining companies block book them and pretty much take over.

Sure, there is new infrastructure going in – mostly in the accommodation and engineering supply sectors, but again, a lot of the gear is purchased from the larger centres closer to the coast. Some of it is maintained on site.

There are no schools growing in enrolments with the mining boom. The families of the workers live on the coast.

Meanwhile, the roads are deteriorating rapidly under the onslaught of the heavy machinery and the wettest summer for more than thirty years.

The mining companies contribute almost nothing to local government rates.

The pic below show how the country looks now. Take a good look. For some areas around Tara, Chinchilla and Charleville, pictures may be all that’s left after the miners are gone.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...