Former minister behind Blair Athol
TERRACOM circumspect, but former mines minister Tony McGrady convinced of merit.
Wednesday 14 September 2016
Aspirational coal miner TerraCom remains hopeful, but tight-lipped about the status of its negotiations with Rio Tinto to buy and restart the mothballed Blair Athol coal mine near Clermont.
Shift Miner approached TerraCom for an update on negotiations, but the company has declined to make any official comment while negotiations are continuing.
TerraCom announced it had entered into a sale and purchase agreement for Blair Athol with Rio Tinto back in April. However, despite the official title, the agreement doesn't mean much, other than acknowledging that both parties have put down on paper a deal they would be willing to do - subject to due diligence.
A person close to the deal said the failure of two previous attempts by Rio Tinto to sell the mine to other smaller opportunistic mining counter-cyclical investors was making all parties particularly wary of “talking up the sale” until it was a done deal.
Adding to the delicate nature of the negotiations is the fact that the State Government is yet to approve the proposed deal that would see TerraCom pay Rio Tinto a nominal one dollar payment in return for taking on the project’s costs and environmental liabilities. Although Rio Tinto will also stump up $80 million to meet the rehabilitation requirements of the mine.
While the headline financial negotiations continue, TerraCom has recruited former Queensland Mines Minister and Mt Isa Mayor Tony McGrady to the position of Independent Chairperson of the Community Consultative Committee (CCC), along with Isaac Mayor Anne Baker, Federal member Lachlan Miller and local business entities like grazier John Burnett.
Notably, TerraCom has also chosen to keep its enemies close after asking - and receiving - one of the region's most active and vocal anti-mining activists Peter McCallum from the Mackay Conservation Group to join the CCC.
The group had its first meeting last week, which Mr McGrady said fulfilled its important function of providing a channel of communication between the community and the mine.
“I am the independent chair - I want to stress that - I don't, nor would I ever, speak on behalf of the company,” he told Shift Miner.
“I came to Clermont to find out who is who at the zoo and tried to form a committee with representation from a strong cross-section of people.
“I was adamant that you needed someone like Peter McCallum from the Conservation Council on the group so the company could hear about the issues he was concerned about and the CCC could get the right answers.”
While Mr McGrady said the meeting was very successful in allowing residents to get informed about the project, and raise issues they were concerned about like DIDO and competition for a small local workforce, he acknowledged that the CCC could not enforce the will of the community on TerraCom.
“I am no shrinking violet, and I am not an advocate or sponsor of the company, but what I can gather from discussion with TerraCom executives is that there is a view within the company that it needs to engage with the community,” he said.
“It’s worth noting that in some states, not including Queensland, forming a CCC is a legislative requirement for mining companies, so TerraCom has volunteered to do this.
“There were lot’s of questions during the meeting and an excellent presentation by TerraCom about what they plan here, so I think everyone felt that they had made a constructive contribution.
"However the committee is not voting on resolutions, and there are economic decisions that TerraCom has to make that can't be influenced by the CCC.
“But I wouldn’t be wasting my time on this role if I thought that what they are proposing was flawed.”
Terra Com says there could be more than 100 jobs generated if the deal goes ahead which will be a real shot in the arm for Clermont.