By Peter Roberts
It is understandable for a party like One Nation to be advocating a policy as dumb as its Project Iron Boomerang steelmaking plan for Australia, but it is dumber for the Senate to vote to support it as well.
But that is what the Senate has done passing a motion establishing an inquiry into Project Iron Boomerang, which Senator Malcolm Roberts describes as an ambitious nation building proposal to link Queensland’s coal and Western Australia’s iron ore fields by rail line.
The proposal is little more than a rehash of a often heard of plan to rail Queensland coal to WA, and WA iron ore to Queensland, maximising utilisation of the connecting rail network, and with both areas boasting mega-large steelmaking plants.
Senator Roberts said: “Project Iron Boomerang is a visionary, nation building project.
“Australia ships billions of tonnes of commodities overseas to places like China who use it to make steel which Australia buys back from them. Combining our natural resources for value-add manufacturing to make steel here in Australia is a no-brainer.”
One Nation even claims this idea is backed by a business plan.
Here’s the problem – the idea was visionary in the 1960s when iron ore entrepreneur Lang Hancock first proposed it.
But back then making steel with coal was perfectly normal – today however it is a dated technology superseded by the reality of climate change and the promise of technologies for reducing iron ore using green hydrogen.
Oneof our two primary Australian streelmakers GFG Alliance is already well down this track and has produced the first greensteel pellets at its Whyalla steelworks in South Australia.
And the other BlueScope has accelerated its plans to switch steel production at its Port Kembla works in NSW to green technologies instead or relying on conventional blast furnaces utilising coke.
Worldwide buyers are crying out for greensteel to lower their own greenhouse gas footprint.
It is thus hard to imaging anyone stumping up the cash for a mega steelworks in Australia right now utilising coke.
It would make far more sense for One Nation to advocate for the development of a renewables and green hydrogen project in the Pilbara co-located with our existing iron ore mines.
That wouldn’t need much transport at all and would be a much more attractive investment option.
Memo Senator Roberts: coal is dead.