3 February 2015

Paul Flynn’s speech welcoming NSW Premier to Maules Creek

WELCOME SPEECH: MR PAUL FLYNN (check against delivery)

 The Premier, the Hon Mike Baird MP, Representatives of the Gunnedah and Narrabri Shire Councils, our Joint Venture Partners, Whitehaven Coal’s Chairman the Hon Mark Vaile and other members of the Whitehaven Coal board, Whitehaven staff, representatives of the media, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen –

It’s my pleasure to welcome you – or welcome you back – to Maules Creek.

Before proceeding I’d also like to extend my thanks to Greg Griffiths for that very warm Welcome to Country, and to add my acknowledgement of the Gomeroi People, the traditional custodians of the land upon which we stand.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Paul Flynn, the CEO and Managing Director of Whitehaven Coal, and it’s my great privilege to stand before you today and survey what I’m sure you’ll agree is a remarkable testament to the hard work and dedication of the team here at Maules Creek, and to coal’s very strong future, not just in New South Wales, but Australia, and indeed the rest of the world.

It might surprise some of you to know that it’s only just a little over a year ago since we received our final approval to commence construction work on this $767 million Project. At that point in time, the vista here was a very different one – part of the last remnant of an unproductive State Forest long since designated for more logging, or mining.

Over the course of the past year, we have achieved an enormous amount in progressing this Project to stage you see it at today. I want to briefly share with you some of the highlights from the significant construction effort that’s been undertaken so far:

  •  We’ve worked about 1.2 million man hours, with a peak workforce of around 750 people, and zero Lost Time Injuries.
  • About 22,000 individual items of equipment, piping and steel components have been delivered here to site from construction yards in nearby Narrabri and Gunnedah – about 250 of which weighed five tonnes or more.
  • We’ve built around 10 kilometers of construction access roads, 12 kilometres of sealed mine access roads, and upgraded about four kilometres of local roads as part of our Voluntary Planning Agreements with Council.
  • We’ve put in place an 18 kilometre-long water distribution network; including an intake pump station, two booster pump stations, and five distribution and truck fill pumping stations.
  • We’ve worked with a total of 105 Registered Aboriginal Parties to survey 38 registered sites within the Application Area and recover over 7,000 Aboriginal artefacts for safe-keeping.
  • We successfully installed over 30 kilometres of rail in under 30 days to transport our production trains.
  • In total, we moved about three million cubic metres of rock and dirt to make way for road, rail and plant area infrastructure works.

And of course, all along the way, while undertaking all this activity, we’ve worked in tandem with Federal and State Government authorities to ensure our compliance with our licence conditions and the suite of environmental and other regulations applying to our operations.

I think I speak on behalf of the entire board and Project Team in saying that it was a source of considerable satisfaction when, on the morning of 17 December 2014, the very first train load of coal left Maules Creek – three months ahead of schedule and just 359 days since full approval was granted.

Construction activity continues to progress, and is now about 90 per cent complete. When this final phase wraps up some time around the middle of this calendar year, the Maules Creek Project will have come in substantially ahead of time, and under budget, based on our current projections.

I know that our Guest of Honour today – a former investment banker, former Treasurer of the largest economy in the Federation, and the man now in charge of implementing the $61.5 billion infrastructure program that this State needs – will have a keen appreciation of the potency of that phrase: ‘ahead of time and under budget’.

Today I want to thank everyone who has helped get us to where we are.

From project managers, to mining engineers, ecologists, contractors, environmental scientists, archaeologists, cultural advisers, community relations specialists, social researchers and even the occasional lawyer; a highly professional and committed team has worked extremely hard, to bring this Project to fruition, efficiently and safely.

It has been a Herculean effort.

Ladies and gentlemen.

This is a transformational project.

Maules Creek is transforming Whitehaven, from its relatively humble beginnings as a smaller scale open cut producer here in the Gunnedah Basin, to the Premier ASX listed coal company in Australia.

Maules Creek will double the size of the business over the next three years, turning Whitehaven into a producer of significant scale, mostly serving global exports markets, but with its roots and its future firmly based in the communities around us today.

Maules Creek is helping to transform this region, providing much needed economic stimulus and employment opportunities at a time when, regrettably, drought continues to take its toll on farms and families through large swathes of regional New South Wales.

Over the next thirty years, Maules Creek will deliver a substantial economic and social dividend to the surrounding area:

  • It will create around 450 new locally based jobs – jobs created for locals, or workers prepared to move here.
  • It will inject an additional $68million in wages into the local economy every single year, supporting retailers and small business owners.
  • It will contribute $13 million towards local infrastructure upgrades, improving amenity and liveability.
  • It will provide around $150,000 in grants to local education and other charitable initiatives.

One further area I would like to single out is Indigenous employment.

Having already set ourselves a minimum target of 10 per cent Indigenous representation in our workforce, I’m pleased to report that we’ve already met – and exceeded – this target within our current operational team of 176 workers.

By providing real, long-term training and employment opportunities to local Aboriginal people, Whitehaven is making a genuine contribution to addressing Indigenous disadvantage and dislocation.

We do this not because we have to, but because it is the right thing to do, and because we know that self-respect and secure future very often starts with a skill and a wage.

Ladies and gentlemen, Maules Creek helping to transform lives through opportunity.

Before I hand over to our Chairman, it would be remiss of me not to make some concluding remarks on coal’s role in a world that is increasingly focused on reducing carbon emissions.

Coal remains the cheapest, most reliable and lowest risk source of energy. From a capital cost perspective, it is also the cheapest to install per kilowatt hour of capacity.

It is irreplaceable as an input to steel making.

Coal has enriched the western nations of the world and has been the mainstay of the cheap and readily available energy that has allowed developing nations like China to move hundreds of millions out people of poverty, quickly and relatively cheaply.

The story is, however, is only part-told.

Currently a fifth of the world’s population – over a billion people – still don’t have access to reliable modern energy. In sub-Saharan Africa, 700 million people – that’s about 28 times the population of Australia – still rely on burning wood or charcoal to heat their homes.

As our global population grows by around 210,000 per day, demand for energy coal will grow at a compound annual growth rate of about 2.4 per cent through to 2035. The idea that we can satisfy the kind of forecast demand for energy other than through coal, and without resorting to nuclear power, is a practical and scientific impossibility.

As the world becomes more focused on the need to consume with less environmental impact, it does not mean that fossil fuels and coal will be less important to the world. Quite the contrary, the world is pushing towards a future of using cleaner coal, the kind of coal that is being produced here at Maules Creek.

The environmental aspirations of wealthy industrialised nations do not automatically overwhelm the need to move billions of people out of energy poverty. Our challenge is produce cleaner coal, more cost effectively, and that is precisely what we are focused on at Whitehaven.

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