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Booming Chinese Demand Has Ripples Down Under In Queensland

Booming Chinese Demand Has Ripples Down Under In Queensland
by Patrick O'Keeffe, Special to CorpWatch (US)
April 16th, 2008

[Excerpt from Corporate Watch US] For the full article please visit www.corpwatch.org

"You could open up the book on any tropical bird and you'll find it here," says Tub Wilson, as he looks around the creek on his former property, a 60-acre spread adjacent to the Keela wetlands in northern Queensland, Australia. "Jeez, I'm going to miss this," he sighs. His friend, Maria MacDonald, agrees: "It's just majestic, beautiful. It's got a special aura about it. It's timeless, a real spiritual place."

Tub’s property will probably be swallowed up by the state government's massive industrial plans for the wetlands that include expanding the port and the railway, and building a new alumina refinery. Wilson mounted a three-year resistance to the development but recently agreed to sell his land to the Ports Corporation of Queensland, for fear that it might soon be worthless. However, both Wilson and MacDonald continue to organize against the development.

MacDonald has just returned from her local shopping center in the nearby town of Bowen with 70 signatures for her petition against construction of the refinery, which is one of the biggest new schemes being planned for the area. “I want to get the community to feel valued, to feel that their opinions matter. Community spirit is very much down,” she says. “We need to care for one another, but everyone's a bit scared to share.”

Chalco's Plans

The new developments are part of the state government's Northern Economic Triangle strategy (which former Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie, defines as “all about taking advantage of the present global surge in demand for minerals and metals.”). It also aims to boost the local economy through the development of infrastructure, such as the expansion of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal, from an annual capacity of 12 million tons to 21 million tons, with the port eventually set to grow to a capacity of 100 million tons. According to the Queensland Government, the expansion of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal will necessitate further development of existing rail networks.

One of the major projects in the Triangle strategy is the refinery, which may soon be developed in Keela or one of two neighboring areas by Chalco (the Aluminum Corporation of China Limited). This is a joint stock company set up in 2001 and now listed on both the New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges. Chalco is China's largest alumina and primary aluminum producer and the world's second largest alumina producer.

For the full article please visit www.corpwatch.org