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CRC TiME’s Pilot Cross Regional Knowledge Exchange in the Bowen Basin – July 2023

Day 1 – Mackay

Day one kicked off with all delegates together for the first time for a delicious breakfast and the group’s first Bowen Basin caffeine hit at a café popular with the locals. We were welcomed by Jarrah Steen, Decarbonisation and Diversification Lead at CRC TiME partner Greater Whitsunday Alliance. While some of us were meeting Jarrah for the first time, it was the second time for the rest of the group. A delayed flight the night prior could have left several of our delegates stranded at Mackay Airport just before midnight. Luckily for us, we work with outstanding regional partners like Jarrah, who kindly offered to help us out with a lift (thanks again, Jarrah!).

Resources Centre of Excellence Tour & Discussions

After breakfast, we made our way to the Resources Centre of Excellence (RCOE) for a tour of the world-class training facility with RCOE Operations Manager, Tracey Dean.

The RCOE tour highlights included the:

  • Virtual Reality Lab (coming soon and once launched will enable organisations across the region to access this technology in a cost-effective way)
  • Underground Mine Simulator
    • real-life underground mine conditions in a controlled environment – the purpose-built 1753m2 space can replicate real-life mine conditions such as smoke, temperature, humidity, and lighting.
    • employee training and inductions – mining companies are among many who hire the space to induct new employees, preparing them for what to expect in their new job.
    • increased efficiency for the industry – a trial that may take six months at an operational coal mine can take as little as two weeks using the facility.
    • economic benefits to the region including product placement – the lighting fitted in the space is set up exactly as you would find in an underground mine by a local LED lighting business, providing companies that use the facility an opportunity to try before they buy.

Our tour concluded in the facility’s purpose-built training rooms where we heard from Greater Whitsunday Alliance CEO, Kylie Porter. Kylie shared how the region’s top three economic outputs – agriculture, tourism, and mining – significantly contribute to the local and national economy. Kylie also discussed the impact of industry hubs on the community, including how a local caterer was able to hire two new employees due to the ongoing demand from the RCOE. Following Kylie, the group heard from Associate Vice President, Central Queensland University, Rob Brown who explained his role as a knowledge broker and how understanding the research needs of a region is key to getting real outcomes.

Virtual Regional Roundtable

Local leaders joined our group for lunch and the afternoon session, where a diverse group of industry leaders from different coal mining regions nationally dialled in for CRC TiME’s Virtual Regional Roundtable panel discussion. Hosted by CRC TiME Research Director Professor Tom Measham, the panel included:

  • Kylie Porter, CEO, Greater Whitsunday Alliance
  • Peter Dowling, CEO, Central Highlands Development Corporation
  • Beau Jackson, Manager Brand, Media and Communications, Isaac Regional Council
  • Associate Professor Jeffrey Jacquet, Associate Professor of Rural Sociology, Ohio State University

Panellists shared their insights on the importance of collaboration, their organisations’ role in economic diversification and their vision for the region’s future. We were lucky to have Associate Professor Jeffrey Jacquet visiting Australia from Ohio, USA as a guest of CRC TiME. Professor Jacquet shared his expertise as a rural and natural resource sociologist, as both a panellist and a valuable exchange delegate.

Following the panel discussion, participants joined in for a Q&A session. Part of the discussion related to the Western Australian town Collie, giving an insight into the region’s transformation journey to date.

Steve McCartney, AMWU State Secretary Western Australia shared his expertise around Collie’s transition. Steve emphasised the importance of taking the time to understand what the community wants and discussed how local artwork has boosted tourism and played a key role in Collie’s industry diversification.

Elspeth Burke, Manager, Collie Delivery Unit, shared more about Collie’s journey and how the Western Australian Government has worked with the community to build their coal mining legacy into their future: “We were looking to develop a [Just Transition] plan that we wanted everyone to get behind, [including] the community, and government, and the unions, and industry, based on the feedback from the working group. We had economic diversification and we had industry attraction … and right up there with those two was celebrating Collie’s history and promoting its future.”

As the discussion finished, our time in Mackay came to an end. We thanked the wonderful people we met including the RCOE and Greater Whitsunday Alliance teams who made us feel so welcome, as well as those who took the time to join us for lunch and our roundtable discussion. After an essential coffee and snack stop, the scenic drive through sugar cane fields flew by thanks to lots of discussion and networking on the bus.

We arrived safely in rainy Moranbah. Day one was topped off with an excellent dinner at the Moranbah Miner’s Club where we were joined by Shane Brandenburg, Manager Economy & Prosperity, Isaac Regional Shire. Shane’s recommendation for dinner was a hit with the group. The Miner’s Club was bustling with locals and the group enjoyed pub favourites for dinner and a relaxed networking opportunity.

Day 2 – Moranbah

Driving Tour of Moranbah Town

We started day two with another delicious breakfast at a café popular with the locals. After breakfast, Shane Brandenburg, and his Isaac Regional Council team members Dayana Jimenez, and Joel Redden took the group on a driving tour of Moranbah. Our tour included the mining camps that service the town’s coal mining industry and the iconic landmark the ‘Red Bucket’, which was once a dragline bucket at the region’s Peak Downs mine.

During the tour we passed billboards with a message to ‘Save Glenden’ and were reminded of one of the harsh realities of mining. We then learned about the community campaign to save a nearby town unsure of its future, after the mine that the town was built to service reached the end of its life. In positive news, the Queensland Government has since announced new legislation which will save Glenden from demolition.

Moranbah Miner’s Memorial

Our tour ended at the Moranbah Miner’s Memorial where Mayor Anne Baker, Deputy Mayor Kelly Vea Vea, and Declan Buggow welcomed our group. Deputy Mayor Vea Vea shared the heartfelt story of why the Miners’ Memorial was established. Each of our hosts shared their unique connection to the memorial as well as their insights on what it means to the community. The importance to the community is symbolised by its central location in the town square, in front of the Council offices.

  • The community honours those lost and their loved ones when a mining-related fatality occurs in the region, whether it is at a work camp, on the road or due to coal-related diseases
  • Within 24 hours of a fatality, the community come together for a candlelight vigil to mourn the loss
  • The community comes together annually for a remembrance service held at the memorial

After learning the of memorial’s history and understanding the significance of the coal industry and its workers to this community, we were honoured to take part in a minute’s silence to pay our respects to those who went to work on the Moranbah coal mines and never made it home.

Isaac Regional Council Offices

Mayor Anne Baker welcomed us into the Council offices to continue our morning session including an overview of the Council’s purpose and priorities followed by a Social Sustainability discussion.

Barada Barna Aboriginal Corporation (BBAC) Deputy Chairperson Luarna Dynevor commenced proceedings with an official Welcome to Country. Luarna discussed how BBAC works closely with the Council, the mining industry, and the local Aboriginal community. When discussing the types of projects that BBAC is involved with, Luarna was clear about BBAC’s priorities sharing that “if it helps our people, the local community and the environment, we are 100% engaged”.

Next up was a presentation from Professor Jeffrey Jacquet on ‘The Ohio Coal Transition: Pathways for Community Resilience’ which covered:

  • The Ohio coal industry – a history and current context
  • How the coal industry shapes a region’s history, culture & economy
  • How changes in the coal industry affect the community
  • Professor Jacquet’s work in the U.S.A including supporting regions in transition to recognise and respect their coal-mining past while creating a vision for the future
  • Research findings on communities experiencing coal transition

After an unforgettable morning, our group felt grateful to have spent time with the Council and very spoilt to be leaving with a special gift bag from the Council.

Stanmore – Site Visit to Isaac Plains Complex

Once again, we received a warm welcome from the people of the Bowen Basin region at Stanmore. Our hosts shared an engaging presentation on their approach to rehabilitation in the area, including:

  • seed selection
  • wildlife preservation (Emus, Plains Turkeys, Brolgas, Possums, Gliders, and Koalas – to name a few)
  • Stanmore’s focus on safety, not polluting the area and returning the land for cattle grazing
  • key challenges including erosion, high temperatures and low rainfall

After the presentation, we put on high-vis vests and other PPE for the second time since the Knowledge Exchange began and we explored the landscape, saw rehabilitation in action and viewed Stanmore’s active coal mines in the distance. We then shared afternoon tea with the Stanmore team before making our way to the Moranbah airport.

Home Time & Reflections

The group were in high spirits after an incredible two days making new industry connections from across the world and learning from other regions at different stages of their transformation journey. Throughout the Exchange, we met with regional development bodies, a local council and other community leaders, toured industry hub facilities, visited mine sites (simulated and real-life!) and networked with peers.

Everyone involved walked away with new industry connections and a stronger understanding of coal transition globally. The key message that came through many times over the two days was: collaboration is the key to successful post-mine transformations.

CRC TiME would like to thank everyone who made our Pilot Regional Knowledge Exchange a huge success.

We would like to give special thanks to Isaac Regional Council, Greater Whitsunday Alliance, the Resources Centre of Excellence, Central Highlands Development Corporation and Barada Barna Aboriginal Corporation.

If you are interested in being the first to hear about upcoming CRC TiME Knowledge Exchanges and other important projects, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

By Rae Young – CRC TiME Regional Engagement Officer 

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