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Permanent military checkpoints close down Cape York Peninsula

by Robert J Lee

For 15 years or more the high-fliers of the Aboriginal industry have been trying to get their hands on the enormous mineral wealth of Cape York Peninsula.

Proven deposits of bauxite, coal, uranium, rare earth, silica, diamonds and gold have been eyed off by miners and banks since an aerial survey of the Peninsula’s natural wealth was undertaken by an American company circa 2003.

The 121,100 square klm land area of Cape York Peninsula has a population of about 8000 of which 3300 are miners living with their families in Weipa.

About 20 per cent of this number living near Weipa are Aborigines.  Other than a handful of pastoralists, the remainder of Peninsula inhabitants identify as indigenous.

Along came Coronavirus, which has now proven to be a virulent strain of the common flu, so authorities, fearing for a vulnerable Aboriginal population of 5000 scattered across 17 communities situated along the east and west coastline, closed down the Peninsula. The closure will prove to be a windfall for the Cape York Land Council and Cook Shire Council.

The Queensland Labor Government which is highly dependent on the welfare vote to keep a Labor member in the Cook electorate, panders to every wish of the Aboriginal community.

Spring Hill permanent military checkpoint along the Mulligan Highway sealing off the main access  to Cape York Peninsula.   – Pic supplied by Cape York resident

Cape York Peninsula Coronavirus checkpoints

A permanent military and police checkpoint has been established at Spring Hill Station, 110 klm north of Mareeba, which personnel say will be there for the next 12 months or until a vaccine is produced, purportedly to protect the indigenous population.

Another permanent military checkpoint has been stationed at Chillagoe to the west of Mareeba.

Cairnsnews has published much scientific data from internationally acclaimed virologists and biologists who maintain the virus, which is causing lung problems in victims has never been isolated from the 36 sub-strains of Coronavirus.

Therefore, as the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy has stated, no vaccine will be available under 18 months, if ever.

Cairnsnews has been told by indigenous residents of the Peninsula they won’t be tolerating another 12 months of being locked up and will be traveling by road or air to Cairns or elsewhere whenever they like and returning home  just as they have done for a generation.

So far the evidence shows they care little for the nonsensical ‘social distancing’ or ‘self -isolation’ terminology coined by the UN and parroted by leaders across the world reading from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (WHO) script.

Already the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah, 20 klms south of Cairns has revolted over their lockdown, staging at least two community protests.

While Aborigines are protesting the lock down at Yarrabah from where residents can walk to Cairns, the potential for Aurukun-styled riots is already rearing its head across the north and into the Gulf..

The rules for exiting the Peninsula are quite simple but if you want to return then you must self-isolate for two weeks at home after re-entry and this isolation will be monitored by police or health officials.

The checkpoint police closely scrutinise your entry papers issued after an online application to the Cook Shire Disaster Management Group. Police will not allow anyone enter the no-go zone under any circumstances if you don’t qualify. Particularly, it seems if you are white and a pastoralist. There are reports that indigenous people are not heavily scrutinised before entering.

Checkpoint guards photograph you, your vehicle, search your vehicle and rigorously check your papers.  The army and police have each set up permanent communication posts at the checkpoint with accommodation dongas and water supply tanks. There is no mobile phone service at the site.

Army Reservists with a sprinkling of regulars man the site around the clock with police drawn from Brisbane and elsewhere, understandably much to the ire of local officers. Extremely generous camping-out and meal allowances are a big drawcard for city officers.

At Bamaga in the Northern Peninsula Area private security guards are patrolling the communities on the lookout for interlopers from the Torres Strait.

Meanwhile the mineral wealth lays in situ waiting for exploitation.

Land claims

The Aboriginal Cape York Land Council two years ago filed Number 1 Claim over the entire Cape York land mass claiming all property not yet handed over to indigenous Prescribed Body Corporate groups and communities. This claim includes a number of white-owned pastoral holdings.

If successful in the Federal Court this claim will give the CYLC jurisdiction over some 60,000 square klms of mineral and pastoral wealth on the Peninsula above the 16th Parallel.  In light of their previous practices few Peninsula community members will benefit from the Number 1 Claim.

Permanent checkpoints with an indefinite life will suit the Aboriginal industry hierarchy allowing them exclusive access to the entire area which they claim as home and naturally the vast deposits of mineral wealth. Mining company personnel will not be allowed to enter under the existing rules.

If the Peninsula is reopened to the 100,000 tourist vehicles that visit every year, Cook Shire Council at Cooktown after agitating for a checkpoint for several years, said it will be charging a boom-gate toll for entry with specific permit routes and destinations.

Predictably the late PM Bob Hawke’s hallmark land rights legislation soon will have created the first indigenous State of Far North Queensland.

Is it any wonder the Chinese have been trying to buy the Tip of Cape York?

Rio Tinto brings more driverless machinery onto line removing more jobs

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.

Mining giant Rio Tinto increasing driverless trucks reducing jobs in its West Australian operations

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.

 

LNP Government kills off mining on Cape York

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.