|This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of Victoria and coal|
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In February 2014 Alcoa announced that they intended to close the smelter in August 2014 and the rolling mills by the end of the year. In the announcement the company stated that the Anglesea coal mine and power station "has the potential to operate as a stand-alone facility after the smelter closes. Alcoa of Australia will actively seek a buyer for the facility." In May 2015 Alcoa said it planned to close the mine and power station.
The company's Anglesea mine is located on what it referred to as the 'Anglesea Heath'. In 1961 the Victorian Parliament passed special legislation, the Mines (Aluminium Agreement) Act 1961 under which 7097 hectares of land has been leased to Alcoa for mining. The firm owns an additional 124 hectares of adjoining land.
The schedule attached to the agreement, which was dated November 22 1961, specifies in section 6 that it would "remain in force for the period of fifty years from the date of commencement". In section 7 the schedule states that "subject to compliance by the Company with the terms and conditions of this Agreement the Company shall upon written application made by it to the Minister not later than six months prior to the expiration of the period specified in the last preceding clause be entitled to an extension of that period for such period not exceeding fifty years as is specified in its application."
Mining the Anglesea heath
On its website the company states that "the woodland community of the Anglesea Heath is the richest and most diverse vegetation community recorded in Victoria. Over 620 flora species exist, representing 25% of Victoria's flora species. This diversity means reinstating the landscape after mining is challenging." 
Criticisms of Anglesea mine
Opponents of the Anglesea mine note that the mine and coal-fired power station is located less than 1.5 kilometres from homes and a school. These individuals not that air pollutants emitted from the power station can impact human health.
Alcoa pushes for lease renewal
With the lease for the mine expiring at the end of 2011, Alcoa of Australia has indicated that it will seek a further extension of the lease. In early March 2011, Greens member in the Upper House of Victorian State Parliament Greg Barber asked the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, whether the "the Minister for Energy and Resources has requested his advice as to whether an environmental impact statement is required, whether he has formed the view that one is required, whether the proponents have approached him and what his determination is." In response, Guy stated that "a view has not been formed on that matter to date." In a supplementary comment Barber asked "which aspects of the ministerial guidelines on environmental impact assessments he believes this project or this decision may engage?". Once more, Guy was non-committal stating only that "in making my decision we will outline the reasons for that after the event rather than subjectively commenting on them before they have been set aside."
Alcoa spokesman, Brendan Foran, told the Australian Financial Review that while it could have simply extended its existing licence, it had opted to negotiate new terms. "We are not obliged to change anything in the arrangement but we will", he said. Foran argued that the Anglesea mine, power station, smelter and rolling plant should be viewed as a single operation. "Point Henry does not exist without Anglesea," he said. He also claimed that, while the Anglesea power station supplied only 40% of the smelter's power, the company would struggle to find alternative baseload power supplies without Anglesea.
Barber told the Australian Financial Review that an environmental impact assessment should be undertaken before any new permit was issued. "The 1961 agreement, as you would expect, didn't really have much in it. Who wants to take the environmental considerations of 1961 and extend them for 100 years," her said.
Subsequently, Richard Baker reported in The Age that in a a late 2010 briefing paper on discussions over renewing the lease the Victorian Department of Primary Industries had agreed to keeping the royalties on brown coal at the same rate as set in 1961. Baker also reported that the briefing note flagged that Alcoa's lease should be extended for a further 50 years and allowed to encroach into a further 600 hectares of the Anglesea heathland. "The Age has been told that Parks Victoria recently spent $1 million reviving the area of native heathland that the Alcoa works plan shows could be affected by future mine operations," Baker reported. According to the briefing paper Alcoa would be exempted from Victoria's Native Vegetation Framework obligation of offsetting cleared native vegetation with an equivalent area elsewhere. Instead, the company would only be required to comply with this provision if it went beyond the proposed extended mining footprint.
According to the briefing paper, the approval of the Cabinet and associated legislation is scheduled to occur in May. Victorian Energy and Resources Minister Michael O'Brien declined to comment on the negotiations with Alcoa. Alcoa's spokesman Brendan Foran declined to comment on the negotiations. Baker reported that Foran "said a work plan for the mine had been submitted to the government as part of the lease renewal process."
"Mr Foran said Alcoa was satisfied with the progress of negotiations," baker reported. Greens member of Parliament Greg Barber told Baker "everyone knows it is closing time for coal and this mining licence is the government's chance to set new standards."
Following Baker's story in The Age, the Geelong Advertiser reported that Foran "refused to comment on future royalty payments and compensation for surrounding landholders". Geelong Environment Council President Joan Lindros told reporter Carmel Christensen that "I'd say that everybody that's had any involvement with the Anglesea heath is so concerned about what looks like being proposed. The coal is only here for a short time, the heath should be here for a long time. It is very significant, there's a diversity of flora and fauna that makes it very special and it ranks with very few places in the world."
"There's been no real discussion with the government and Alcoa and we now need to change that. We want a bit of transparency about what's proposed and we just want to inform the government that it's just not acceptable," Mrs Lindros said.
Articles and resources
- "Coal Mining", Alcoa website, accessed August 2010.
- Alcoa of Australia, "Alcoa to Close Point Henry Aluminium Smelter and Rolling Mills in Australia", Media Release, February 18, 2014.
- "Alcoa to shut Anglesea coal mine and power plant," The Age, May 12, 2015
- Alcoa, "Coal Mining Rehabilitation", Alcoa in Australia website, accessed March 2011.
- "Mines (Aluminium Agreement) Act 1961 - Schedule", Victorian Consolidated Legislation.
- "Serious hazards in burning coal" Dr Eugenie Kayak, The Age, October 27, 2011.
- Greg Barber, "Q: Will the Anglesea coal mine, power station and smelter be subject to environmental assessment?", March 2, 2011.
- Matthew Dunckley, "Mine battle looms for Alcoa", Australian Financial Review, March 4, 2011, page 19. (Sub' req'd).
- Richard Baker, "Alcoa mine could take heritage heathland", The Age, March 21, 2011.
- Carmel Christensen, "Fears over possible Anglesea mine expansion", Geelong Advertiser, March 22nd, 2011.
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- Alcoa Australia, Alcoa at Anglesea, 1980. (This title is not available online but can be accessed via the National Library of Australia).
- Anglesea Heath draft management plan, Parks Victoria and Alcoa Australia, February 2001.
- Parks Victoria and Alcoa World Alumina Australia, "Anglesea Heath Management Plan", Alcoa World Alumina Australia (Alcoa) and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE), November 2002.