Northern News Briefs
Cape York Peninsula. Police are on the look out for an ambulance stolen from Aurukun. It is described in picture:
It is not known if there was a patient in it when stolen. It is believed the vehicle was to be used as an undercover grog runner from Cooktown to keep the community riots running smoothly.
Coen. Four local Aborigines charged with killing a bullock, the property of a local grazier, fronted the Coen Magistrates Court on November 11. All were remanded until January.
Cattle duffing has been rife on the Peninsula for a few years according to a prominent grazier.
He said a mob of weaners recently had been stolen from a property near Weipa and breeder cows were missing from other properties in the Northern Peninsula area.
He said there is a flourishing trade in stolen meat allegedly slaughtered by local inhabitants from roadside killings.
“It is always hard to catch these people and we know who is doing illegal slaughtering but the authorities don’t act on it,” one source claimed.
The unprecedented high price of cattle has made stock stealing quite lucrative and in spite of stock being branded and ear-tagged with NLIS electronic devices, few rustlers ever get caught.
Peninsula Development Road. Road transport companies report the gravel sections of the PDR are in reasonable shape which is unusual for this time of year. One saving grace is the lowest ever number of tourists converging on the Cape due to Covid lockdowns and border closures.
Finding water for gravel maintenance is always a problem at this time of year particularly when the National Parks and Wildlife Service refuses to allow road maintenance crews to take any of the abundant surface water from national parks either from creeks, lagoons or rivers.
Aboriginal-owned land also has plentiful water availability which in some cases can be accessed at a cost to the Main Roads Department.
Truckies report there are several dangerous bitumen sections of recently-constructed highway that could cause a problem for unwary drivers.
Just north of Archer River crossing is a sunken culvert, which began sinking not long after it was put there in 2018. MRD has been aware of the danger spot for nearly two years but nothing has yet been done to fix it.
A dangerous collapsed culvert on the bitumen south of Musgrave has been patched up after being signposted and in disrepair for more than 18 months.
Along the older bitumen section through Wolverton Station, north of Archer River the sub-structure has moved considerably causing severe rippling of the surface for about 500 metres.
Weipa. Rio Tinto’s Andoom mine, situated 10 klm north of Weipa on the Mapoon Road is set to close in three years but it could be sooner if the mining giant does not find new markets for the non-renewable, valuable resource bauxite. Locals will be left with a large hole in the ground albeit rehabilitated somewhere near to its original state.
Bauxite royalty payments from this mine will also cease for the Mapoon community.
Mapoon residents will be disadvantaged because the ailing, Rio-owned road and rail Mission River Bridge over the Weipa Inlet will not be maintained after Andoom closes. This will prevent easy road access to Weipa for the remote community.
In ten years time this bridge will be a rusting navigational hazard and an eyesore.
As a result a new bitumen bypass road has been constructed through the disused, large cattle property Billys Lagoon handed over to local Aborigines about 10 years ago. The cost of the road, believed to be part-funded by the State Government has not been divulged. Earthmoving contractors say it would be more than $10 million.
One contractor not involved in the project said after inspecting the road the bitumen construction was less than industry standard.
from a Weipa correspondent
from Townsville bureau
Mining giant Rio Tinto in spite of its much-touted support for indigenous people on Cape York Peninsula has economically suppressed the Napranum Aboriginal community which adjoins the township of Weipa.
Three years ago an application was made to Rio Tinto by local elders who hold a Forestry Department timber cutting permit, to resume timber harvesting on Rio’s vast mining lease.
A Napranum native title group had been cutting timber on the mining lease and processing it in their modern sawmill since 1996 but halted production due to management and distribution problems in 2015.
A spokesperson said the sawmill and at least 10 local jobs had been idle ever since. Rio management at Weipa made every excuse during negotiations to recommence harvesting to prevent timber cutting on any part of their lease.
Instead at least three times a year the miner clears and burns large areas of valuable hardwood.
In 2017 at least 3000 acres of prized Cooktown Ironwood and Darwin Stringy timber worth at least $1.8M after processing was cleared and burnt without a single log being salvaged.
This occurs on an annual basis.
The mining giant claimed timber cutting could not go ahead because they had found palm cockatoos and quolls on parts of their lease. It was explained to the environmental section that these animals are not endangered and can be found across the Peninsula and south to Mareeba.
Never mind their fate when clearing and burning occurs.
The State Government, which issued the harvesting permit, has done little to get the timber cutting and sawmill restarted. It seems Rio rules the roost in Queensland.
Rio Tinto to expand autonomous fleet as part of $5 billion productivity drive
Rio Tinto will expand its fleet of autonomous haul trucks at its world-class iron ore operations in the Pilbara by more than 50 per cent by 2019 after signing agreements with leading manufacturers Caterpillar Inc. and Komatsu Ltd. to convert traditional trucks to autonomous vehicles.
A total of 29 Komatsu haul trucks will be retrofitted with Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) technology starting next year. The project at the Brockman 4 operation is scheduled for completion by mid-2019, allowing the mine to run entirely in AHS mode once fully deployed.
A further 19 Caterpillar haul trucks at the Marandoo mine will also be retrofitted starting mid-2018 for completion by the end of 2019. The retrofit is significant for Rio Tinto as it marks the first time AHS technology has been deployed by the company on Caterpillar haul trucks.
Once completed, the retrofit projects are expected to make a significant contribution toward Rio Tinto’s $5 billion productivity programme, helping to underpin the continued delivery of superior returns for shareholders.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said “We are excited to be starting a new chapter in our automation journey with a valued long-term partner in Caterpillar and we are proud to be extending our successful partnership with Komatsu on this world-first retrofitting initiative.
“Rapid advances in technology are continuing to revolutionise the way large-scale mining is undertaken across the globe. The expansion of our autonomous fleet via retrofitting helps to improve safety, unlocks significant productivity gains, and continues to cement Rio Tinto as an industry leader in automation and innovation.
“We are studying future additions to our autonomous fleet in the Pilbara, based on value, to help deliver our share of $5 billion of additional free cash flow for the company by 2021.
“Rio Tinto is committed to working closely with our workforce as we transition to AHS including providing opportunities for new roles, redeployment, retraining and upskilling.”
Automation is helping to improve productivity and efficiencies across Rio Tinto’s operations in the Pilbara. The retrofit programme will assist the iron ore business in delivering an additional $500 million of free cash flow annually from 2021. As part of this initiative Rio Tinto is increasing scrutiny of each and every one of our cost components and have so far aggregated more than 3500 employee ideas in the company’s productivity pipeline, many of which will deliver cost benefits.
Last year, on average, each of Rio Tinto’s autonomous haul trucks operated an additional 1000 hours and at 15 per cent lower load and haul unit cost than conventional haul trucks. About 20 per cent of the existing fleet of almost 400 haul trucks in the Pilbara is AHS-enabled. Following the completion of the projects with Komatsu and Caterpillar, Rio Tinto will have more than 130 autonomous trucks, representing about 30 per cent of the fleet.
From a safety perspective, automation has been shown to reduce the number of people exposed to potential hazards as well as reduce the number of critical risk scenarios.
Autonomous haul trucks, locomotives and drilling systems
Komatsu, founded in 1921, has established a leading international market position in the areas of construction and mining equipment as well as industrial machinery. Rio Tinto has been partnering with Komatsu, using their advanced truck technology at our mines, for 20 years.
In September, Rio Tinto and Komatsu deployed the world’s first retrofitted Komatsu autonomous haul truck at our Hope Downs 4 operation.
Rio Tinto’s relationship with Caterpillar extends over 50 years. Caterpillar was founded in 1925 and is an industry leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines as well as gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives.
AHS allows trucks to be operated by a supervisory system and a central controller, rather than a driver. It uses pre-defined GPS courses to automatically navigate haul roads and intersections and knows actual locations, speeds and directions of all vehicles at all times.
Rio Tinto started deploying autonomous technology in 2008. The iron ore business also operates six fully Autonomous Drill Systems (ADS) to drill production blast holes.
Rio Tinto’s ran its first fully autonomous heavy haul train in September 2017, completing a 100-kilometre pilot run without a driver on board. AutoHaul® is on track for completion by the end of 2018, making it the world’s first fully-autonomous heavy haul, long distance rail network.
The Perth Operations Centre is the nerve centre of Rio Tinto’s autonomous operation with around 400 people monitoring our Pilbara operations in real time.
Cape Alumina project scrapped
In another cynical, self-preservation announcement the government stopped the proposed Cape Alumina bauxite project dead in its tracks this week after the (Steve) Irwin family pressured the Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney to halt the $1 billion development on environmental grounds.
Although Cape Alumina had no intention of mining anywhere near the Wenlock river which flows through Bertiehaugh pastoral holding held by the Irwins, 200 klms north east of Weipa, Newman could see the positive environmental spin it would generate for the LNP amongst the Brisbane chardonnay set at the next election.
Cairns News has no doubt the Irwins’ will be campaigning for the LNP in the south east corner come next election, mooted in August.
The wider collateral damage has not yet been evaluated however the decision will directly cut 1700 jobs, further entrench the reliance of local indigenous groups on the welfare sponge and set back the Cape York economy many years.
In yet another blow to the Far North, Rio Tinto at Weipa yesterday announced it was placing its $1b South of Embley expansion on the back burner for a further 12 months.
In today’s Cairns Post, Warren Entsch, the Liberal Member for Leichardt which takes in Cape York Peninsula, launched a scathing attack on the State Government for shutting down mining on the Peninsula.
Entsch attacked the Irwin’s for having prior knowledge of the government’s rebuke and for campaigning against the project which was in place before they were gifted the $6.3m Bertiehaugh station by the former Federal Labor Government.
“Terry and Bindi Irwin had enough notice to travel to Brisbane so they could stand beside Campbell Newman for the announcement,” an angry Warren Entsch said.
He said he was shocked there had been no consultation with himself, the Mapoon Shire Council, Cook Shire Council or Cape Alumina itself.
Mr Entsch said this decision sends a very bad message about development in Queensland.
CMC Committee sacked
The wheels are starting to come off the LNP Government wagon after this week’s desperate manoeuvres by Premier Campbell Newman to gain control of the anti-crime watchdog, the Crime and Misconduct Commission.
The Parliamentary CMC watchdog committee was sacked by the Attorney General Jerrod Bleije after its Chairman, Independent MP Elizabeth Cunningham criticised its interim chairman, Ken Levy allegedly for making a false statement before the committee.
Amid much public controversy, a new committee was appointed yesterday with a majority of government members.