Australian news, and some related international items

Slashing of Renewable Energy Target will mean loss of thousands of rural jobs

Abbott-destroyerRenewables energy suppliers warn on RET jobs 19 SEP,

Suppliers working on Australia’s renewable energy projects say many thousands of jobs will be lost – most of them in rural and regional areas – if the federal government slashes the Renewable Energy Target (RET).

Forty small and medium businesses from around Australia have jointly written to the government, urging it to retain the current policy, rejecting the recommendations of the recent Warburton review to shut down or severely reduce the RET.

“We are writing as suppliers to Australia’s renewable energy industry, which has now generated more than $10 billion worth of investment in large-scale renewable energy projects,” the companies said.

The companies (listed at bottom) between them operate across all Australian states and territories.  “Our businesses build electrical infrastructure, roads and components for power stations in wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy, along with supplying safety equipment, cranes, trucks and cement.

“They provide catering, cleaning services, security, logistics and accommodation to construction teams, manage environmental and cultural heritage plans, and supply many other essential inputs to the renewable energy industry.

“While the industry directly employs 21,000 people, our companies collectively employ many thousands more as a result of the clean energy sector.”

The companies, whose sizes range from 1 to 2000 employees, said Australia’s 68 wind farms, 49 large-scale solar projects, 139 bioenergy projects, 123 hydro projects and trial marine and geothermal projects had provided the incentive to grow and employ more workers.

“Many of these jobs are in rural and regional areas where other job opportunities are scarce,” they said.

“We have hired and trained workers and invested in our businesses on the basis of the development of renewable energy in Australia. Maintaining the RET in its current form will help us continue to create jobs and opportunities for Australian workers,” they wrote.

The companies also referred to analysis undertaken by ACIL Allen for the Federal Government, which found that retail electricity prices will be lower over the long term if the RET is maintained, as it will help shield Australians from rising gas prices.

“This is beneficial to all Australians, consumers and businesses alike,” the companies said.

Signatories: ………

September 20, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, employment | Leave a comment

Risks of uranium mining outweigh any benefits

text-uranium-hypeAnti-uranium activists criticise NSW exploration program, Australian Mining 15 September, 2014 Vicky Validakis Anti-nuclear campaigners have criticised the NSW government for opening up the state to uranium exploration.

Last week the state government invited six companies to apply for exploration licences.

The move comes two years after NSW overturned a uranium exploration ban. Mining uranium is still restricted.

Three locations around NSW – near Broken Hill, near Cobar and south of Dubbo – have been earmarked for drilling activity.

Natalie Wasley, spokeswomen for the Beyond Nuclear Initiative, said the decision was disappointing, ABC reported.

“Uranium has very unique and dangerous properties and risks,” Wasley said. “It’s linked to the production of the world’s most toxic and long-lasting industrial waste, as well as proliferation of the world’s most destructive weapons, so it poses a risk to workers, to communities and the environment.”

Wasley said the sector will only create a small number of jobs, and claims the risks associated with uranium outweigh any economic benefits. “We know that in rural and regional areas there’s a much better opportunity for long-lasting sustainable jobs in the renewable sector.”

“We’d really encourage those local governments and the state governments to be putting money and resources into developing more creative, long-term and sustainable jobs for people.”……..

The six companies invited to apply for licenses are Australian Zirconia, Callabonna Resources, EJ Resources, Hartz Rare Earths, Iluka Resources and Marmota Energy.

September 16, 2014 Posted by | business, New South Wales, rare earths, uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium mining still prohibited in New South Wales, and not considered economically viable

Uranium exploration in western NSW – but mining is still prohibited  NSW Country Hour  Sally Bryant and Julie Clift  15 Sept 14, The New South Wales Government has invited six mining companies to put in expressions of interest to explore for uranium, but mining will remain prohibited, until deposits prove economically viable.

However not all of the mining companies who are involved in this process are actually interested in mining for uranium.

One of six companies invited to tender for an exploration licence, Alkane Resources, is developing a rare earth project near Dubbo, in the state’s central west.

Alkane say they’re not interested in uranium, that they are merely protecting their rare earth project from other resource companies applying for an exploration licence over the top of them

Managing Director Ian Chalmers says this is an insurance policy for his company……..

September 16, 2014 Posted by | business, New South Wales, rare earths, uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium oversupply bodes ill for the future of the industry

uranium-moneyRally in Uranium Prices Is Unlikely to Last, WSJ, 14 Sep 14  Gains Fueled by Ukraine Crisis, Mine Unrest Don’t Offset Oversupply SYDNEY—A multiweek rally in uranium prices fanned by the Ukraine conflict and labor unrest at a large mine in Canada looks unlikely to continue for long as the reality of oversupply and lackluster demand sinks in among buyers of the nuclear fuel.

Industry analysts and some uranium producers believe that even as supplies fall, a substantial increase in demand is needed to drive prices up to levels that would make new investments worthwhile, when many operations are running at a loss……..

Demand for the fuel hasn’t recovered since the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant in 2011, which sparked nuclear-plant closures across the country and tarnished uranium’s image globally…….

state governments in resource-rich Australia have been encouraging the growth of the nation’s uranium industry. A decadeslong ban on uranium production in Queensland was lifted in July, opening the door to new applications to build mines in the state. The government of New South Wales this month said it would invite six companies to apply for exploration licenses.

Still, there is expected to be little investment in new projects until the market stages a more substantial comeback. Cameco said it would need to see much higher uranium prices before it started construction of its proposed Kintyre uranium mine in Western Australia.

“The nuclear industry is still in the midst of upheaval,” said Jonathan Hinze, senior vice president at nuclear-research firm Ux Consulting Co. …

September 15, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

Forget the hype – Australia’s uranium trade with India is of little economic benefit

Since the uranium policy was overturned in 2011, bilateral trade has gone backwards and now stands at A$15 billion. Expectations of direct and profitable investment by Indian companies in Australia’s uranium industry are likely to fall flat.
text-uranium-hypeThe future is renewable, not radioactive Jim Green 12 Sept 14 India and Australia have signed a nuclear cooperation agreement that may open the door for uranium sales. However, obstacles remain and claims of an economic bonanza for both countries ignore facts.
 A 2011 report in Australia’s Fairfax press claimed that uranium sales to India could generate A$1.7 billion in annual exports. But according to the World Nuclear Association, India’s uranium demand this year will amount to just 913 tonne — 1.4% of the world’s demand.

If Australia supplies 20% of that demand, uranium export revenue will increase by 3% — two orders of magnitude short of the figure in the Fairfax press.

Indian demand would have to grow ten-fold just to sustain one small uranium mine in Australia. Projections of exponential growth leading to hundreds of gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity in India should be disregarded. Continue reading

September 13, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

CLAIMS about the potential economic benefits of uranium sales to India are laughable.

Directly or indirectly, Australia will be fuelling a nuclear arms race in South Asia … for a pittance in return.

It is foolish and dangerous to sell uranium to a country that is actively expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal and refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Opinion: Race to export uranium to India only has a booby prize  JIM GREEN THE COURIER-MAIL SEPTEMBER 08, 2014

    CLAIMS about the potential economic benefits of uranium sales to India are laughable.

Michael Angwin from the Australian Uranium Association claimed that Australia could sell 2500 tonnes of uranium annually to India by 2030, generating export sales of $300 million. A 2011 report in the Fairfax press claimed that uranium sales to India could generate $1.7 billion in annual exports.

Such claims ignore readily available facts.

According to the World Nuclear Association, India’s uranium demand this year will amount to just 913 tonnes – just 1.4 per cent of world demand. If Australia supplies 20 per cent of that demand, uranium export revenue will increase by 3 per cent.

Guthrie poisoned-chalice-3Vanessa Guthrie from Adelaide-based uranium explorer Toro Energy, who is accompanying Prime Minister Tony Abbott on his trip to India, claims that by 2018-19 the uranium industry could generate 10,000 jobs.

But according to the most generous estimate, that of the World Nuclear Association, uranium mining and exploration account for just 1700 jobs in Australia – that’s 0.015 per cent of all jobs. So Guthrie anticipates a sixfold expansion in just five years, at a time when global nuclear power capacity is stagnant?

That’s laughable. Mr Abbott may struggle to keep a straight face as Guthrie dishes up this nonsense in India.

But there’s nothing funny about other aspects of the proposal to sell uranium to India. Continue reading

September 8, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

Rare Earths mining in Central Australia

a-cat-CANNote: We mightn’t like mining, and it will be good when eventually product design is such that recycling of rare earths will pretty much eliminate this. Still, rare earths are needed in 21st Century technologies, especially in renewables. At least this company is not involved in the difficult and hazardous rare earths processing. I understand that processing is to be done in China, – where, after their disastrous history, they  now do have the most advanced methods

rare-earth-dysprosiumMining company Arafura Resources says plans to mine rare earth minerals in central Australia remain ‘on track’, despite uncertainty over future funding for the project, ABC Rural News 3 Sept 14,  NT Country Hour  By Carmen Brown

The company hopes to extract up to 20,000 tonnes of rare earth oxide per year from the Nolan’s Bore deposit, 135 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

A comprehensive project report released this week, indicates mining could begin at the site in 2019, six years later than previously expected. General manager of exploration and business development, Richard Brescianini, says while there has been strong interest in the project from investors, the company is yet to secure full financial backing for the mine……

September 6, 2014 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, rare earths | Leave a comment

Queensland government wants India to invest in uranium mining in Queensland

dollar 2Australia’s Queensland state seeks investment from Indian firms in uranium mining Business Today Anilesh S Mahajan      August 29, 2014   A week before Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott lands in New Delhi on his first trip to India, the Australian state of Queensland is soliciting investments from Indian companies to mine uranium…….

At a select media briefing, the state’s trade and investment commissioner for South Asia, Parag Shirname, said that there are two-three Indian corporate houses that are keenly looking at getting the mining license, once the deal is reached. “We have already briefed them about the regulatory frameworks, geological data and the attorney firms. They are exploring the opportunity,” he said. Shirname refused to divulge the names of these corporate houses citing non-disclosure agreements. ……
ith Indian investments, the government there is expecting production to go up about 30 per cent by 2017, from 6,976 tonne in 2011. The Queensland government restarted the process of giving out mining licenses from July this year, after a moratorium of 25 years.
India has already concluded civil nuclear cooperation agreements with Argentina and Kazakhstan, and a similar contract with Canada is in final stages……
As per Canadian law, Indian companies can take only 49 per cent of equity in a uranium mining company……..”There are no such conditions if they come to Australia,” Shirname said.
Modi, on his visit to Japan , is expected to sign a nuclear deal with Japan, which will not only smoothen the investment of Japanese companies in setting up of nuclear plants, but will also help the US treaty to be enforced as most US nuclear equipment companies either have Japanese investments or they work in conjunction.

September 2, 2014 Posted by | business, Queensland, uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium miner Paladin reports another big loss

graph-downwardWeak uranium price hits Paladin NICK SAS The West AustralianAugust 29, 2014 The weak uranium price has hit Perth miner Paladin Energy, with the company reporting a $338 million loss for the year.

Late last night the John Borshoff-run company reported a basic operating loss of $3.4 million – which it blamed on the weak uranium price – compared to its operating profit of $55.9 million last year.

The $338 million book loss came on the back of a $226 million impairment on its Queensland exploration assets, along with smaller impairments at its African mines.

The Kayelekera Mine, which it put on care-and-maintenance in May, was the main culprit in the operating blowout, with the mine reporting basic cash costs – but not all-in costs – of $US42.6 a pound.

The uranium price has been hovering around the $30/lb pound mark for much of the year……….

Earlier this week Mr Borshoff had his contract extended by two years until the end of 2016. He will be paid a base salary of $1.38 million a year.

August 31, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

Chinese solar energy firm to close its research in Australia, due to Abbott govt policies


Suntech, founded by Australian-trained former “Sun King” billionaire Shi Zhengrong, will next month close its Suntech R&D Australia unit with the loss of about a dozen jobs.

The company, now owned by a Hong Kong solar tycoon Cheng Kin Ming and renamed Wuxi Suntech, said in May it invests more than $3 million a year in Australian research and development.

“Suntech wants to continue a relationship with Australia, but it no longer makes the same sense to keep a research team [here],” Renate Egan, managing director of the Sydney-based R&D unit, said.

Dr Egan said Wuxi Suntech recently announced a plan to consolidate most research activities at its base in China. The Abbott government’s signals that it will cut the national renewable energy goal also reduced confidence about future opportunities.

“Clearly the market’s not going to grow here,” Dr Egan said, referring to large-scale projects.

The government is yet to release the recommendations of its hand-picked panel reviewing the Renewable Energy Target. Clean energy investors fear the panel, headed by former Caltex chairman and climate change sceptic Dick Warburton, will back a cut of the current goal of supplying 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy by 2020 – if not scrap it entirely for new entrants……….

Richard Corkish, chief operating officer of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at the UNSW, said the loss of the Suntech unit could see significant talent head overseas.

“We hope as big a fraction as possible [of the researchers] can remain in Australia,” Dr Corkish said, adding that there has “not been too much good news” lately for the industry’s outlook in Australia.

While Australia continues to conduct world-leading research into aspects of solar PV research – such as UNSW’s work on increasing the productivity of solar panels – the level of support is likely to shrink because of government cutbacks, Dr Corkish said.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency currently provides grants for UNSW, Monash University and other institutions.

However, the Abbott government has vowed to scrap the agency and is expected to try again in the Senate………

While Australia’s take-up of renewable energy may be about to slow markedly, other nations are likely to press ahead.

A research report out this week by investment giant UBS estimates solar panels combined with storage are likely to be competitive with conventional power grids by 2020. Battery prices are likely to halve by the decade’s end – and continue to fall – giving the solar-storage combination a payback period of six to eight years by then……..


August 25, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s uranium industry digging anew hole – for its coffin?

burial.uranium-industryAustralia’s uranium industry in a hole Nuclear Monitor #789, August 2014 Developments in South Australia highlight the uranium industry’s ongoing problems. The opening of the state’s latest uranium mine − the Beverley Four Mile in-situ leach mine − would normally be accompanied by considerable fanfare. The Advertiser − a Murdoch tabloid, and the only mass circulation newspaper in the state − might be expected to parrot industry lies about jobs and export revenue.[1,2]

But as The Advertiser said: “South Australia’s newest mine will lose money and won’t create any jobs.” Part of the problem is that the uranium price is well below the cost of production. And General Atomics has put the nearby Beverley mine into care-and-maintenance and shifted the workforce to Beverley Four Mile − so no jobs have been created. Alliance Resources Ltd. which holds a 25% stake in Beverley Four Mile, is seeking to sell out of the project.[1,2]

The Honeymoon uranium mining, also in the north-east of South Australia, was equally underwhelming. Just months after first production in 2011, project partner Mitsui announced its decision to withdraw as it “could not foresee sufficient economic return from the project”. And last year the mine owner − a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom − put the mine into care-and-maintenance because it was running at a loss.

Another Murdoch newspaper, The Australian, says it may be years before uranium regains its “sexy sector”.[3]

In Western Australia, United Uranium, which holds several uranium exploration licences, has decided to get out of uranium exploration and instead focus on property development. The company said its strategic review “underlined a consistent theme, that junior resource companies and in particular uranium focussed companies, are currently ‘unloved’ by the investment community”.[4]

Also in Western Australia, Areva Resources Australia, a subsidiary of the French nuclear giant, has formally withdrawn from the North Canning exploration project because it was not viable. It is believed Areva spent up to A$5 million on the project. Aboriginal Traditional Owners in the region were opposed to the project and refused to negotiate with Areva.[5]

In June, RBC Capital Markets Analysts cut its 2014 spot price forecast to US$31.50 a pound, down from US$45. The 2015 target was cut to US$40 (from US$60), and targets for 2016−2018 fell to just US$40-US$45 from US$75-US$80. RBC believes the uranium market is going to be in surplus until 2021. “Active annual supply exceeds demand by a significant margin, and on top of that, significant excess inventories have been and continue to be accumulated post the Fukushima disaster, particularly in Japan,” RBC said, adding that it believes only four Japanese reactors will restart this year, and just 28 (out of 50) will be online by 2018.[6]







August 20, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment

The high economic cost of reducing Renewable Energy Target

thumbs-downRenewable Energy Target cut would hit budget: modellingThe Conversation, 18 Aug 14 Michelle Grattan Professorial Fellow at University of Canberra  Reducing the renewable energy target would cost the federal budget about $680 million more to meet Australia’s target of 5% emissions reduction by 2020, according to modelling released today by climate and conservation groups.

The modelling found that cutting the RET would increase the profits of coal power stations while boosting the costs for the public through more pollution without reducing electricity prices for consumers.

It would see “the loss of billions of dollars of investment in the short term”; by further destabilising the policy environment for investors, it would drive up the costs of power sector investment in the future.

“Outright abolition of the RET would further increase pollution and undermine clean energy investment.”

The government has an inquiry underway into the RET. But Clive Palmer has said his senators will oppose any change in the term of this Parliament.

The modelling was done by Jacobs SKM and commissioned by the Climate Institute, the Australian Conservation Foundation and WWF Australia……..

….The modelling found electricity prices would not be reduced and could rise slightly if the RET were reduced – by 15% wholesale and 2.5 % retail on average in the period to 2030. “This is consistent with modelling commissioned by the government and studies conducted independently,” the report said.

“For a household consuming 6.5 MWh of electricity annually (NSW average), reducing the RET would add about $35 to the annual power bill, with most of this increase taking place after 2020. Abolition of the RET would add about $80 a year.”

Reducing the RET would diminish investment in renewable energy in Australia out to 2040 by $8 billion in present value terms. Scrapping it would increase the loss to $10.6 billion, the modelling found.

Reducing the target would mean 150 million extra tonnes of carbon pollution by 2030, and 240 million tonnes by 2040. “Higher levels of pollution lead to socialised costs we estimate conservatively to be $14 billion.”


August 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment

Profits for EnergyAustralia, AGL, and Origin Energy if RET is cut

dollar 2Renewable Energy Target cut would hit budget: modelling, The Conversation, 18 Aug 14 Michelle Grattan Professorial Fellow at University of Canberra “……..The current arrangement (including the large-scale RET plus existing hydro and small-scale solar PV panels) would lead to about 28% of national electricity coming from renewables by 2020-21. The modelling looked at capping it at 20% (the “reduced” scenario) as well as abolishing the RET altogether.

Reduction of the large-scale RET as proposed by some power companies would bring $8 billion extra profit to coal and $2 billion to gas generators (net present value of future profits 2015-30).

Under current ownership arrangements, EnergyAustralia is the company that would stand to gain the most. Its potential extra profit would be about $1.9 billion if the RET were reduced (and $2.2 billion if it was abolished).

But “if AGL purchases Macquarie Generation, it would become by far the biggest beneficiary of reducing the RET”, with combined extra profits of $2.7 billion if the RET were reduced.

“Origin Energy’s total extra profit would be about $1.5 billion. Origin owns the power station that would emit the largest amount of additional pollution under a reduced RET.” ……..


August 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, energy | Leave a comment

Australia’s Future Fund and Banks invest in nuclear weapons

piggy-bank-nukeThe Don’t Bank on the Bomb report in 2012 revealed that most Australian banks have provided loans to nuclear weapons companies at some stage since 2008. Disappointingly, none have shown a willingness to divest, but they draw the line at financing projects specifically for nuclear weapons work.

Australia: The Future Fund goes Ballistic, Tim Wright Opinion polls show that Australians overwhelmingly oppose nuclear weapons. So when we learned in 2011 that our major federal government investment fund – the so-called Future Fund – has substantial investments in nuclear weapons companies, there was widespread public uproar.

Melbourne’s leading daily newspaper, The Age, ran a front-page story with the headline: “Australia investing in nuclear arms.” The following day, readers reacted angrily on the letters pages, and a cartoon depicted businessmen being hurled through the air by an exploding nuclear bomb. “The Future Fund goes ballistic,” read the caption.

We uncovered this controversial information using freedom-of-information laws, which allow any member of the public to gain access to documents held by Australian government agencies. There was no charge for this service.

When the news broke, the Future Fund stated that it had no plans to divest from companies involved in nuclear weapons production, even though it had earlier divested from cluster munitions and landmines. It claimed that countries such as the United States, Britain and France possess nuclear weapons legitimately.

Not satisfied with this response, we encouraged friendly senators to quiz the Future Fund leadership about their position in the parliament. This helped keep the issue on the political agenda. The minister overseeing the fund, Senator Penny Wong, was forced to defend the position.

We then commissioned legal advice from a team of top barristers, who found that the Future Fund had failed to comply with its own stated investment policies. Continue reading

August 4, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Silex dumped solar for nuclear: now nuclear has dumped Silex

Parkinson-Report-Silex tumbles after solar-nuclear switch hits market roadblock, REneweconomy By  on 28 July 2014 Silex Systems decided in June to dump its solar business to focus on nuclear. But now the nuclear industry has dumped Silex.

nuke-solar-marriageLess than one month after Australia’s Silex Systems placed its solar technology assets up for sale to focus on uranium enrichments, it has been dealt a massive blow by the suspension of its nuclear ambitions.

In late June, Silex sought to arrest its slumping share price and preserve its cash reserves by deciding to seek buyers and co-investors in its Solar Systems and Transluscent businesses.

CEO Michael Goldsworthy said at the time he wanted to focus on its laser uranium enrichment process, confident that its partnership with GE and Hitachi (GLE) could mean that the world’s first commercial laser enrichment plant could be in operation later this decade.

But those dreams are now on hold – indefinitely – after GLE said it would cease funding laser development projects at Lucas Heights in Sydney and put the main project facility near Oak Ridge in Tennessee in “cold storage”. Most contractor-based work on the project will be suspended, with the project facility near Oak Ridge, Tennessee to be placed in a safe storage mode, and GLE-funded activities at the laser development facility at Lucas Heights, Sydney to cease.

Silex appears to to have been shocked by the announcement, saying it was “unexpected” and GLE had already invested “hundreds of millions of dollars” in the project.

The share slump cames just days after “stock pickers” in Fairfax and News Ltd business pages rated Silex as the “best speculative stock” on the ASX. A day after a Fairfax collumnist called Silex “one of the best intelligent speculations on the ASX, the stock plunged rom 94c to a low of 49c. The stock has fallen from a 2009 high of $7.97 a share, and a year ago it was trading at more than $3.

Those brazen calls – and the optimism of its mostly retail shareholders – were based on the optimistic belief that the nuclear industry is about to rebound. But this is mostly based on hope – and an arrogant distrust of renewables – than any actual evidence.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who made the call to bring the research to a halt despite investing hundreds of millions, has said privately that nuclear is “too difficult” . (GE was one of the biggest suppliers of nuclear technology in the world.”

Goldsworthy says it is clear that the global nuclear industry is “still suffering the impacts of the Fukushima event” and the shutdown of the entire Japanese nuclear power plant fleet in 2011.

Demand for uranium has been slower to recover than expected and enrichment services are in significant oversupply, and the market could take “several years” to rebalance………..

August 2, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment


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