The threat of a major charcoal burning industry in East Gippsland has finally died.
The company, Australian Silicone, made an announcement on 10th March to the Stock Exchange that it would be withdrawing from feasibility studies and plans to establish a silicone and associated charcoal plant in Australia.
It couldn’t find a friendly region anywhere offering half a million tonnes of native forest to burn each year, it couldn’t get a cheap deal on power (one third of its operating costs) and it had missed the time-sensitive boat for the global silicone market. This is largely due to it being chased out of every town where it tried to establish its dirty industry over the past two years.
Pre-Victorian election, we were given a commitment from Steve Bracks that his government would not allow any charcoal production from native forests. However, soon after, the local East Gippsland Council passed a motion supporting a charcoal/silicone industry here. They claimed they had confirmation from the Bracks government that because this was only policy, not legislation, the Council could accept and process any planning application for the charcoal burner. A local campaign was started which quickly galvanised public opinion against such a proposal.
It is interesting to note that a week after this announcement in March, the Carr Government, in full election mode, made the cheap promise it would not allow any native forests to be used for charcoal! A bit late.
So that game and threat is over. The next thing to knock off is the woodchip industry. And world markets could do this for us very soon.