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February 25th 2008
Where do they stand on Chalco?

Community Voices and Townsville Green's Mayoral candidate, Jenny Stirling has called on the other mayoral candidates to state their position on the Chalco aluminium refinery development which is expected to be built in either Townsville, Bowen or Gladstone. Issues related to the positon of the plant and associated pollution is a crucial issue for the city and Magnetic Island's future so we invite any candidate reading to make their comment in our comments box along with the wider readership.

Jenny Stirling's comments follow:

"Sustainability is about looking after the needs of people today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Placing Chalco upwind of this city fails the most basic premise of sustainability," said Ms Stirling.

"Those who oppose Chalco on economic grounds are lining up behind others who have concerns about, housing, health costs to the wider community, environmental impacts and the resultant fallout for tourism. What our city needs is some leadership on this issue: not just kowtowing to State Government and business interests" said Jenny Stirling.

"What many residents of Townsville are starting to realise is that we don't have a spare 2000 spare tradesmen needed to build a project of this size in Australia. So in addition to recruiting guest workers, Chalco will also attract workers away from existing building sites and maintenance projects here in Townsville" said Ms Stirling.

"Then there are the housing problems- Townsville residents are struggling to afford home loans, rents and finding accommodation let alone competing with thousands of workers and residents attracted to the city because of the flow on effects of such a development" said Jenny Stirling.

"And the costs to tourism when people associate Townsville with heavy industry of this nature and the prospect of a base load coal fired power station (gas being in doubt)- well don't surprised if tourists by-pass the city for elsewhere" said Ms Stirling.

"Then there are the health and environmental impacts on the city and the Reef. We know there are big problems with the fallout of heavy industry in Gladstone and we don't want to buy into problems like those. The community has a right to know where the Mayoral candidates stand in relation to this issue as it will affect us for many decades to come.

(Editor's Note: Magnetic Times is presently in partial recess as we are travelling in southern parts. We apologise for the lessening of our regular coverage but invite readers to make any information they consider important available to us so we can pass it on to the readers at our first opportunity.)

To add your comment, see below

Where do they stand on Chalco?
February 27th 2008
Mr Editor,
I'd like to correct a minor error which might otherwise confuse this issue. The Chalco (that's Chinese Aluminium Corp or thereabouts) project intends to take bauxite ore from Weipa (Cape York) and refine it into alumina (aluminium oxide) which is a white powder. It is not intended that the refinery will make aluminium metal as suggested in the story.
The refining process extracts about 30%-50% alumina. The remnant product (various iron oxides and silicas) is an extremely fine red mud which always presents a disposal problem - evident on the coast at Gladstone Q. and at Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land N.T. It is highly mobile (dust and watery runoff), very strongly alkaline and virtually impossible to vegetate.
I imagine that the Chalco plant, if it is located at Townsville, will import the bauxite by ship through the port - in much the same way that four million tonnes per annum of nickel ore is currently imported for Yabulu and an unknown tonnage of zinc concentrate is imported for Sunmetals. Activities at the port raise their own issues, especially for Anna Bligh's proposed Duck Pond canal estate there, but they will be a mere sideshow compared with the issues arising at the refinery itself.
Alumina refining is a complex, hot, chemical process which produces a number of nauseating airborne effluents which have well known health effects - none of them attractive. Almost the entire city of Townsville (including Magnetic Island and even Rocky Springs) is immediately downwind of the proposed plant site. I don't think the Queensland Government has announced (yet) where the red mud would be hung out to dry but anywhere between Ayr, Charters Towers and Townsville will be a hundred kilometres too close to the city, the Ross River dam and the Great Barrier Reef, let alone the gorgeous Cleveland Bay wetlands upon which this whole disaster is proposed to be built.
The 105,000 voters in the Townsville City Council elections next month really should know where the mayoral candidates stand on this crucial issue.
March 5th 2008
If responses (or lack of them) to the various local government election articles in MagneticTimes are any indication, it's surprising how little interest there seems to be in the several notable issues confronting our community at this time. Chalco is a good case in point.
If Townsville or Bowen are chosen as the site for this industry it is almost certain that a new coal-fired power station would be needed to drive the plant. A new coal-fired electricity generator is the last thing the Smart State needs to raise its environmental credentials. Is there any chance of a wind farm at Bowen (where it's always blowin')? - not likely!
Those who question the claims of airborne effluent pollution from these plants will no doubt follow with interest (or dread?) the recently launched legal action in Western Australia against "aluminium giant Alcoa" (The Australian, 3 March 08). Alcoa's plant at Wagerup near Perth regularly attracts the attention of downwind residents, many of whom are convinced their illnesses are directly related to pollution from the plant.
It's not as if Townsville is without previous experience. The Sunmetals zinc refinery, which is touted as worlds best practice, latest technology, spent its first couple of operating years depositing a kind of acid rain fallout on the surrounding area - including dozens of employees cars in the parking lot which had to be repainted. Visitors there will note that the parking lot was moved to a more upwind site and covered to prevent ongoing damage. The fallout continues unabated. This is the plant site that could one day host a lead smelter and anyone with a half-engaged brain knows that heavy metal contamination is one of the most hotly secret issues of government in Queensland. Don't even mention Mt Isa's lead pollution.
The new mayor of Townsville will have a great deal of influence in the location of the Chalco plant. Does anyone (else) care?

jenny stirling
March 12th 2008
Sorry Charlie but Chalco does intend to build a smelter at some point in the future. This has been acknowledged by the Mayor of Bowen and others and there is provision for a smelter as well as a refinery included in the new State Development Area at Bowen (which will probably be where Chalco ends up, if anywhere in QLD.

And all in beautiful Keella Valley which is a RAMSAR listed wetland. Slim Dusty wore songs about this place - that's how lovely it is and of course Townsville Greens will be helping people in Bowen in their fight against it being sited there.

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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