MAC: Mines and Communities

China Update

Published by MAC on 2006-03-02

China Update

2nd March 2006

In the late seventies, Billiton/Pechiney's bauxite lease on Aboriginal territory in Aurukun, northern Queensland, was second only to Rio Tinto/Comalco's at Mapoon and Weipa, as a synonym for the breach of Indigenous rights.

In 1978 three Aboriginal leaders visited Billiton's headquarters in the Netherlands and were told by the company that it would be "very unwise" to proceed with the project, in the absence of prior community consent.

In the intervening years, Pechiney was absorbed by Alcan, and Billiton by BHP; little happened at Aurukun, although Rio Tinto's operations rapidly became the most criticised of any Australian mining project.

Now, after prolonged negotations with some of the world's leading alumninium outfits, the Australian government has invited China's biggest alumina producer to submit a final tender for this huge bauxite deposit. An agreement with the Wik and Wik-Way communities on royalties and environmental protection has still to be reached.

CHALCO wins Aurukun project


2nd March 2006

THE world's second-largest alumina producer, Chinese company CHALCO, has pipped a big field to develop the Aurukun bauxite project in far north Queensland.

According to an AAP report, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie told parliament today the Chinese outfit had become the state's preferred tenderer for the deposit.

CHALCO has been asked to submit a final tender by the end of May. Beattie told parliament CHALCO'S investment is expected to be in the order of $A2.92 billion, with the government agreeing to kick in up to $300 million to help get the project off the ground.

Ten of the world's alumina producers comprising Alcan, Alcoa, BHP Billiton, Comalco, Brazil's CVRD, Hindalco, Hydro Aluminium, Mitsubishi Corporation, Russian Aluminium, and Xstrata were all reportedly interested in the 650 million tonne project.

Aurukun came on the market after the Queensland State Government passed special legislation in 2004 to cancel a lease covering the project held by Canadian company Alcan.

This followed calls in 2003 for the surrender of the mining lease, then held by Pechiney - which was acquired by Alcan - on the grounds that the leaseholder had failed to start construction for a refinery by 1988, as per the terms of the lease granted in the 1970s.

On acquiring Pechiney, Alcan offered to fast-track a $15 million feasibility study in
return for retaining the lease - to no avail.

World Bank pushes renewables in China

by Sabian Wilde, EnergyReview

23rd February 2006

CHINA has secured a loan from the World Bank worth more than $A117 million for the express purpose of fast-tracking its development of renewable energy projects, specifically targeting wind, solar and small hydro projects.

The push for renewables in China has been deemed necessary to help the country meet its quickly expanding energy requirements.

Around $A90 million of the loan will be directed towards the development of the 100 megawatt Huitengxile Wind Farm in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which is currently home to approximately 70MW of wind generation capacity.

The Huitengxile Wind Farm will be developed and operated by the Inner Mongolia North Long Yuan Wind Power Company, with a purchasing agreement in place with the World Bank's Prototype Carbon Fund.

The World Bank estimates the wind power field is capable of sustaining up to 1000MW of wind power gerenration.

Based on the internal wind driven power generation and operational performance of the existing Huitengxile wind power field, the 100MW project will use 67 wind driven 1.5MW capacity turbines, using a Dangemaikang generator and a low-temperature wind turbine manufactured by GE Wind Energy Company.

Under Chinese law, 70% of the value of a wind turbine must be produced domestically.

The PCF was established by the World Bank in 2000 as a public/private partnership between 17 companies and six governments, with the express purpose of developing the market for project-based greenhouse gas emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol's flexible mechanisms, promoting sustainable development and offering a "learning-by-doing" opportunity to its stakeholders.

The World Bank's lead energy specialist for China, Noureddine Berrah, said the rapid growth of China's economy made it necessary for programs like the PCF to help minimise the impact on the environment.

"China's energy demands and its need to decrease air pollution make large-scale renewable energy development an important goal," she said.

"The idea behind the program is to increase the commercial, large-scale use of renewable energy sources like wind, small hydropower and solar energy so that they contribute to meeting the fast-growing electricity demand from homes, farms and businesses."

The rest of the World Bank loan to China has been earmarked for a range of small hydro projects no bigger than 10MW in the Zhejiang Province.

China's renewable energy scale-up program aims to develop the commercial market for energy suppliers to provide large-scale renewable energy to the electricity grid in an efficient and cost-effective way.

The majority of China's renewable energy sources - wind power, solar power and biomass - have historically been produced in small-scale pilot programs, outside the main electricity supply.

The World Bank loan has been facilitated through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loan as a variable spread loan, maturing in 20 years with a five-year grace period.

Xiao Yunliang freed 24 days before jail sentence ends

by China Labour Bulletin Press Release No. 12

1st March 2006

Prominent labour activist Xiao Yunliang was released from prison on 23 February, only 24 days before his four-year jail sentence ended.

China Labour Bulletin welcomes the release of Xiao, but the move just 24 days before the end of his sentence suggests there has been no change in the government's attitude towards labour activists in China. "Xiao's released only shortly before his term was completed shows that the Chinese government has not changed its hostile attitude towards workers' organisers in China," said CLB's director Han Dongfang.

Additional evidence of the authorities' insincere treatment of labour activists is the fact that Yao Fuxin is still in prison. Yao, together with Xiao, led around 2,000 workers from Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory along with a further 15,000 workers from five other factories in Liaoyang in a series of large public demonstrations in March 2002. Yao is serving for a seven-year jail sentence and is not due to be released until March 2009.

Xiao was secretly detained on 20 March 2002 and then formally charged with the crime of "conducting an illegal assembly and demonstration."

Subsequently, on account of his alleged involvement in the banned China Democracy Party (CDP), the charge of "subversion" was brought against him. Yao has consistently denied any involvement in the CDP.

"Xiao and Yao were sentenced to jail on subversion charges, although they were only fighting for workers' rights. China claims to be promoting the rule of law and a harmonious and civil society, so it should stop cracking down on workers' organisers," said Han Dongfang.

The workers who took part in demonstrations in Liaoyang City, Liaoning Province, in northeastern China in 2002, were protesting against alleged corruption in the factory - which they argued was a direct cause of its bankruptcy - and calling for unpaid wages and other owed benefits, including pensions, to be paid to the workers.

Tried at the Liaoyang Intermediate People's Court on 15 January 2003, Xiao was sentenced to four years in prison and was originally due for release in March 2006. Like his fellow prisoner Yao Fuxin, he has been plagued by serious health problems throughout his imprisonment.

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