Kalbar Conversations Column

Fingerboards Project Q&A with Jozsef Patarica - CEO, Kalbar Operations


   Wednesday 20th January, 2021

Question: What are Kalbar Operations’ plans for 2021?

Answer: The Fingerboards project is progressing through the State government Environment Effects Statement (EES) approval process. The next phase is the public panel hearing which commences 15 February and will be complete in April. The panel will provide their assessment to the Minister for Planning within 40 business days post the completion of the hearing and then we await the assessment from the Minister for Planning. The Minister’s assessment provides advice and recommendations to relevant statutory authorities that will issue the numerous permits, consents and licences required by Kalbar. The Minister’s assessment will also be provided to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment’s assessment report under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. We anticipate this approval process will be the main focus for 2021 as well as the Work Plan which will reflect the Minister’s assessment. The Kalbar team is also continuing with construction and operational readiness activities.

Question: What benefits do you believe the Fingerboards Project can bring to the local community if you get approval from the Planning Minister?

Answer: The benefits will be wide-ranging. Existing local businesses will have opportunities to support the project and increase employment in areas such as civil works and concreting, mechanical, plumbing, metalwork and electrical services, scaffolding and rigging and equipment operators, just to name a few. Kalbar has initiated the Regional Infrastructure Working Group which is identifying the existing skills, capabilities, and skills gaps in East Gippsland. Younger locals will have more employment pathways available through structured apprenticeships, traineeships and VCAL programs. Kalbar is also in the process of establishing a community grants program aimed at supporting local community groups and clubs which also directly benefits the local community.

Question: How many jobs will the Fingerboards Project generate during construction and operations?

Answer: During the construction phase of the project, 200 jobs will be available. Construction will take a couple of years to complete and then the project will move in to the operational phase. Throughout the 15-20 year life of the project there will be 200 ongoing operational roles. Many local services and businesses will be required to support the mining operation and those indirect jobs will conservatively number 200, and most likely many more. Operating expenditure for the mine will be in the order of $60 million per annum.

Question: What impact will the vote taken by East Gippsland Shire Council in December 2020 to not support the Fingerboards Project, have on the project going ahead?

Answer: The EES process is managed by the State government and approvals for the Fingerboards project are managed by State government authorities. We wish to develop a strong relationship with the new councillors as many aspects of the project will involve Council.

Question: How can mining co-exist with farming and agriculture?

Answer: There are many examples of mining operations co-existing with farming and agriculture across Victoria and Australia. Mineral sands are mined in strips, backfilled, and progressively rehabilitated, having the least impact when compared to other forms of mining. The mining industry is a strong ally of the primary production sector and contributes by providing or upgrading necessary infrastructure such as roads, rail, power, water and telecommunications infrastructure.

Question: Do you believe you have social licence to operate? What is social licence to operate?

Answer: We believe social licence to be the informal ‘licence’ granted to a company by various stakeholders who may be affected by the company’s activities. Such a ‘licence’ is based on trust and confidence - hard to earn, and easy to lose. Relationships between businesses and community need to be developed and nurtured and based on mutual respect and understanding, so social licence is an ongoing and evolving process. Kalbar Operations is bound by a strict code of conduct to ensure we demonstrate respect, transparency, honesty and integrity at all levels within the business and in all aspects of our operations and therefore confident that we are demonstrating and developing our social licence.

Jozsef Patarica - CEO, Kalbar Operations