China Stone Leaves the Queensland Working Class Further In Doubt About Their Future
The struggle to balance out the issues of employment and the environment has been at the front of mind for progressive movements in Australia since the LNP regained power in the recent federal election. Be it correct or not, Labor was painted to look as though they’d place the environment in front of jobs whereas the LNP was viewed as putting employment ahead of any environmental impact.
Of course, none of these views are correct as neither party has the intention, boldness or ability to make substantial improvements on either front.
The Labor Party cheer squad has been happy to pass the blame for their loss onto the entire state of Queensland, especially those who belong to the working class. This is not unusual, as we know the working class are the first to be blamed when ripples appear in the fabric of bourgeois rule.
It’s ludicrous to scorn those who have the audacity to want secure employment in this age of neoliberalism and austerity, the working person struggling to wade through the swamp of ever increasing costs of living, stagnant wages, and a bloated housing market on the brink of collapse, cannot be condemned for not putting environmental issues at front of mind.
Adding to the worries of the Queensland proletariat is the recent announcement that the planned China Stone project has been suspended.
The state government approved project was to be a large-scale coal mine with a yield of up to 38 million tonnes per annum located 300 km west of Mackay, employing some 7,300 workers in its construction and operation. (1)
The project which was to be located 30 kilometres from the much talked about Adani mine was tendered by the Chinese firm MacMines Austasia, and would have had a much bigger output than it’s scaled down neighbour.
According to a Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy spokesperson: "MacMines has voluntarily not progressed their five mining lease applications for the China Stone project.” (2)
With coal mining and production no longer being as profitable as it was in its heyday, and Chinese banks being less and less enthusiastic (or at least less vocally enthusiastic) about funding coal projects and claiming to look toward more “green financing”, it’s no surprise that this project has been put on the back burner.
Other reasons include the lack of ready infrastructure such as rail lines. The announcement of China Stone’s halted operations coincided with Adani opting to scale back its initial rail plans. The multi-billion dollar corporation was to receive a $900 million government loan to construct a new line, choosing instead to assemble a smaller line that will connect to the existing Aurizon network.
It’s important to note that regardless of the platitudes dished out by Chinese corporations and the Chinese government, China is responsible for 46% of global coal production and 51% of global demand, and in 2018 approved nearly $6.7 billion worth of new coal mining projects, and production increased 5.2% to 3.55 billion tonnes. (3)
Most of these operations are situated in underdeveloped countries, where running and employment costs are far lower than Australia, countries where the working class are more easily exploited. Add to this the fact that they don’t have environmental safeguards as strict as Australia’s to comply with when digging in the third world, as many of these countries are desperate to build up their economies after being ravaged by the IMF, World Bank or direct aggression from the U.S.A and its subsidiaries. These areas include parts of South and Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
It’s clear to see that the words that come out of China may please Western liberals but scratch the surface and you’ll find it no more than lip service.
Where To Next?
But where does all this leave those who would have been relying on these mines for future employment? Exactly where they’ve been for a long time now, living from pay cheque to pay cheque with the ever-lingering threat of a bleak future hanging over their heads.'
As Ned K. stated in a previous article “It is the poor leadership of successive governments of both Liberal/National Coalition and Labor that have clung to coal mining and provided no alternatives to coal mining communities.” (4)
What’s really hurting the workers of Queensland isn’t resistance to coal, it’s the lack of a planned and diverse economy, an economy that takes into account both social and environmental needs. It’s the preference of the ruling bourgeoisie to offer up the country to foreign multinationals who take what they need and leave nothing behind for the inhabitants of Australia.
Only an independent and socialist Australia could offer its people a lifetime of employment and fairness, where mines are run responsibly by the people with all environmental concerns addressed transparently and honestly, with the fruits of the people’s labour power going towards the maintenance and upkeep of society.
(2) Mega mine next to Adani quietly put on hold, thousands of promised jobs in doubt, ABC, 23 May2019.
(3) Coal isn’t Dead. China Proves It, Forbes, Jan 23, 2019.