Trench warfare: LNP caught in crossfire as miners split over attack on Greens

Turmoil has engulfed the Queensland mining sector with several of the state’s biggest miners considering their positions within the Queensland Resources Council after an attack on the Greens caused its most powerful members to quit.

Oct 07, 2020, updated Apr 08, 2024
Prices for coal have plunged

Prices for coal have plunged

The attack led to BHP suspending its membership from the QRC and South32 this afternoon formally notified the QRC of its concerns. Other major mining companies have told InQueensland there were considering their positions.

Origin has also suspended its membership saying “the campaign around the Queensland election oversteps a clear boundary between policy and politics and we do not endorse this activity.

“Origin expressed concerns about the campaign directly to the QRC, and we have since communicated our decision to suspend our membership.”

Anglo American is understood to be considering its position.

But the Rockhampton-based Senator Matt Canavan, who led the charge against Greens founder and former senator Bob Brown at the last federal election campaign, was scathing of BHP.

“The once-proud Big Australian, BHP, is now too scared to run a campaign against radical Greens that want to shut down their business,” How weak,” Canavan said.

Despite several warnings from BHP, QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane launched a campaign urging Queenslanders not to vote for the Greens in the state election because of the party’s impact on mining.

The issue will now be how LNP Leader Deb Frecklington responds to Canavan’s attack.

BHP was angered because the statements attacked a political party, rather than policies.

BHP is the state’s biggest coal producer and politically the most powerful because of the huge amounts it pours into Treasury coffers each year in coal royalties. It is also a significant contributor to the QRC’s membership revenue.

According to environmental group, BHP and its joint venture partners produced and sold 72 million tonnes of metallurgical coal from their Queensland mines, worth an estimated $13.5 billion Australian dollars.

“BHP is a giant in Queensland’s resource industry. Turning its back on the QRC for its political meddling will send shockwaves through the sector,” Australia chief executive Lucy Manne said.

“When one of the state’s biggest coal producers doesn’t want to be associated with the state’s coal lobby group you know you’ve gone too far. BHP should not just suspend, but cut all ties with QRC for good.”

BHP has worked to change its image and in recent years it has sold its thermal coal assets, apart from Mt Arthur, and called for policy action on issues like a price on carbon.

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Macfarlane yesterday said the campaign against the Greens was considered carefully by the board.

“This campaign is consistent with campaigns previously run by other mining organisations in other states.

“The QRC has made a decision in relation to the anti-jobs policies of the Greens that is in the best interests of Queensland mining and gas members, and the 372,000 people and 14,400 businesses who rely on the resources sector for their livelihoods.

“The resources industry will continue to support the economy and jobs of Queenslanders despite the Greens wanting to shut the industry down.

“The current situation is so dire the QRC has to stand up for its industry, particularly people in regional areas.”

South32 said it had made its concerns known to the QRC.

“As with any potential misalignment between South32 and our industry associations, we have engaged with the QRC to formally raise our concerns,” a South32 spokesperson said.

“We value the work that the QRC does to support the Queensland resource industry and the broader community, however we do not support campaigns directed at individuals or political parties.”

Greens MP Michael Berkman said his party terrifed the QRC “because if we win, multinational mining corporations will have to pay more in royalties so we can invest in jobs, health and education”.

“The ultimate question for this election is who benefits from Queensland’s enormous mineral wealth. The Greens are the only party who have proposed raising mining royalties so every Queenslander can benefit, so it’s no surprise the QRC has had a little meltdown.”

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