OH&S News

Adapting to life on the carbon express ?

In particular, off-road fuel users, including mines (and by extension quarries), rail and aviation, will be subject to the carbon tax on from 1 July, 2012, when their diesel fuel tax credits will fall 6.21 cents per litre. This is consistent with the the initial carbon price of $23 per tonne. This means you will pay more for power in your crushing and screening circuit and diesel in your load and haul and on-highway fleets.
So what?s the solution? The Australian Trade and Industry Alliance will lobby hard against the carbon tax and perhaps there may still be scope for the concrete, cement and aggregate sectors to urge changes to the Federal Government?s final package before it passes into law. However, a carbon tax (in my humble opinion) is a fait accompli. No amount of lobbying pressure will sway the Government to reverse course. Barring a constitutional crisis, there won?t be a federal election for two years and the carbon tax should pass into law before then. The Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate and the minority Federal Government is holding firm in the House of Representatives. Clearly the challenge now for the quarrying industry is to adapt and work smarter.
How can you do this? If you want to minimise emissions and fuel costs, then you will need to do your homework. You will need to consider earthmoving and processing equipment that employs hybrid technologies or train your workers to be better ?eco-operators? when they are using your capital equipment. You may also have to be prepared to make capital equipment purchases that, while expensive now, are eco-friendlier than their competitors and will save you expenses in the long term.
The good news is that there are plenty of suppliers to the quarrying industry that have developed eco-friendly technologies. The irony is that by necessity you will have to explore these options if you want to save costs and minimise emissions. In practice, the carbon tax may live up to some of the theory behind it ? it will at least change behaviour. The jury is still out on whether it will lower emissions ? and meet Australia?s bipartisan emissions reduction target of five per cent on 2000 levels by 2020.
The quarrying industry exists in a regulated world ? and has for some time expressed willingness to explore cleaner, leaner technologies and sustainable strategies to co-exist with the community. Local communities favour new quarry projects and expansions if a cleaner, leaner approach to quarrying is advocated. After all, a carbon tax could be the least of the quarrying industry?s concerns. How long could it be before Australia develops its own green certification standard for quarrying and mining?
We are already seeing examples of this in North America and Europe. To prepare for regulation in Canada, Holcim is self-regulating and establishing its own green certification standard for aggregates, which it seeks to apply to its 25 quarries and sand and gravel pits in Canada (see page 11). For an existing quarry to be certified green under the Holcim proposal, it will have to meet some of the toughest conditions on quarrying in the world, including a 15 per cent reduction in emissions on 1990 levels.
Clearly, Holcim recognises that it must board the green certification express now rather than be herded onto it in a decade. It?s a visionary approach, compared to the short-sightedness of some sectors of Australian industry that have known for years that the carbon express was coming ? and are now insisting they won?t board it. In a fait accompli, choice goes out the window ? the key to mitigating the effects of regulation is to anticipate and prepare for the future. The quarrying industry can adapt accordingly.
Damian Christie

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