Fact follows fiction


p2152-Major-Project-1By ERWIN CHLANDA
Are you having fun with the ABC’s Utopia, that delightful spoof about an “authority” with the sole purpose of hoodwinking the public into believing its government is doing something useful?
Don’t worry if you’ve been watching another channel, because here in the Territory you get the real thing, right under your nose.
Take yesterday’s “story” of the conferral of Major Project Status upon Tellus Holdings’ Chandler Salt Mine near Titjikala, 120km south of Alice Springs.
Now, our fingers are crossed so firmly it hurts that the project will become a reality and will boost our economy, but it’s a long way off as yet. Not that you’d get that oppression from Chief Minister Adam Giles.
At 9:32 yesterday came a breathless email promising an “an exciting announcement” about the mine, summonsing media to the Tellus office in Alice Springs at 1pm.
At 1:32pm, for those who didn’t go, came email # 2, telling us Mr Giles is “thrilled to announce the government’s support for this $464 million project which will create huge employment opportunities for Territorians”.
Wow. Done deal! Brilliant!
Hang on, that’s not at all what Tellus says in its media release: It refers to a  proposed mine.
“We have started the final stage of studies for our Environmental Impact Statement and Definitive Feasibility Study and will shortly lodge a Mineral Lease Application.
“Based on the current feasibility study assumptions, the project has a capital expenditure of $464m [and] could potentially bring a lot of investment [to] the Alice Springs region.
The final investment decision will be made once we complete the bankable feasibility study, obtain regulatory approvals, secure commercial agreements and access funding for the construction stage.”
None of these ifs and maybes in Mr Giles’ spin doctors’ hand-out: “The granting of Major Project Status to the salt mine reflects the significant economic impact that the project will have in Central Australia.

“The company expects between 280 and 350 people will be employed during construction of the mine and 180 people after it is operating.
The salt will be taken by train to Darwin [and some of it] will be reserved for niche specialty salt businesses.
It’s not until the last line of the handout that you find out that “a final investment decision will be made once Tellus completes these studies and receives regulatory approvals”.

Another question is, what does Major Project Status mean? What does Tellus get that other applicants don’t?
Mr Giles’ blurb says he is looking “forward to working with the company as it moves through the normal feasibility and environmental approvals process. We are committed to ensuring this happens as smoothly as possible”. So, applicants who haven’t been given that status can’t expect that kind of efficiency from his bureaucracy?
Tellus says it and the NT Government will sign a Project Facilitation Agreement (PFA) that … provides whole-of-government facilitation and support [do others not get it? and] commits both parties to working together to ensure the efficient and timely delivery of the project [and Tellus] agrees to maximise the local benefits of the project, such as training, local employment, business opportunities and Indigenous development opportunities in Central Australia.
And what exactly does all that mean?
PHOTOS: On Twitter and in a company handout, Mr Giles is all smiles.


  1. Without a Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS) the profitability of the company is an unknown as is the ability of the company to attract finance.
    So at this stage there is nothing at all to get excited about, let alone make grandiose announcements.


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