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May 24, 2011

"The End of an Era?"

Photo: Mt. Isa discoverer John Campbell Miles, with drilling contractor, the late Ron Kitching. Click to embiggen.

By Viv Forbes, Chairman,

This is Viv’s introduction to the article, “Value Adding in Australia – The Beginning of the End?” below. For those of you who are not taken in by the warmist hype or merely oppose carbon taxes, please bear in mind the last paragraph and do whatever you can to spread the message. - Jim. 

A personal explanation first:

People seldom recognize major turning points when they occur. At the time they are just another routine event in a crowd of trivial news.

But I was shocked recently by what I believe is a major turning point in Australian industrial history.

Xstrata announced that smelting and refining of Mount Isa copper is to be phased out.

As a young graduate, decades ago, I watched in wonder as men in asbestos suits tapped the glowing copper furnace to release a test sample of molten metal for the metallurgist. I gazed at the huge ladles pouring the molten copper into the casting wheel to form the slabs of blister copper. I saw the heaps of the red metal piled up on the rail siding destined for Townsville.

And, as I later walked through the refinery at Townsville, I marveled at the science, engineering and practical skills under that roof. To see the continuous casting wheel turning molten metal into rod and wire was modern magic.

All of these assets, skills and machinery are about to be scrapped as Australia loses its competitive edge in value adding.

Does Minister Martin Ferguson understand that many of these jobs for technicians, engineers and skilled workmen in minerals processing and refining are under threat from the carbon tax? Does he honestly believe they can be replaced by green jobs such as oiling the gearboxes of wind turbines manufactured overseas by General Electric or washing the dust from solar panels manufactured in China? Can he explain how replacing low cost energy with high cost energy can benefit Australians? If the Minister understands these dangers and delusions, why is he not speaking up? Has he lost his wits or his courage?

This Mount Isa decision is a wake-up call to those who recognize the broad trends of history. The excessive burden put on every industry over a few decades by over-regulation; over-taxation and general featherbedding will be suddenly focused by talks about a tax on carbon dioxide.

I have personally done many investment analyses working for MIM when it was the biggest company in Australia (those heady days are long past). So I know how professionals like Xstrata do their sums. Decisions are taken not just on today's conditions, but on those expected to prevail in future. Those with the brains to do the sums will see that even talk of a carbon tax may cause a cascade of decisions like the Xstrata one. It is already happening in UK where Tata Steel is mothballing steel plants.

Copper production commenced in a hurry at Mount Isa in 1942 to provide Australia with wartime supplies of copper. In the next global crisis, where will Australia find the skills and machinery to produce the sinews of industry if the refineries and plants producing metals, steel, cement and motor fuels have closed? Where will our smart engineering and science graduates get their jobs? Instead of adding value to our fabulous resources, will they go to live in Asia, or get jobs writing fatuous climate change propaganda for Greg Combet?

Thinking about these matters, I wrote the article below, which I hope may help to convince people of the dangerous policies we are being fed.

Could you please help us to get this message out to every politician, every media person and onto as many web sites as possible. Write letters, send emails, make phone calls. We skeptics are out-numbered, out-spent and have the big guns against us. Being right is not sufficient these days – we need to convince 51% of the people we are right, so we need help from our distribution network.

Viv can be contacted at:


  1. I saw that China is coming on strong down under in rounding up raw materials for export to their homeland. Any worries you might become nothing more than indentured servants and a supplier of raw materials to China?

  2. My biggest concern is that with the higher energy prices involved in manufacturing value added products due to a carbon tax, this will be the standard for the future. Many of our secondary industries will simply be uncompetitive.

    The statement by Viv, "I marveled at the science, engineering and practical skills under that roof." highlights the fact that where we have produced secondary products here in the past, we have been cutting edge by world standards.

    I am noticing more nowadays, that Australian exploration companies are spending a hell of a lot more time, energy, expertise, and money, doing overseas what they were bloody good at here. Its a sign of the times.