27 March 2007
A business delegation from the Australian state of Queensland, led by Premier Peter Beattie, was in South Africa last week, looking to forge partnerships with local companies for skills training and infrastructure development.
Business Day reports that the focus of the partnerships would be around clean coal technology, skills training and infrastructure development.
Queensland’s economy is built around its big coal reserves, being mined by groups such as Anglo Coal, BHP Billiton and Xstrata, all companies with a substantial presence in South Africa. The state has also encouraged non-mining industries such as tourism, aviation and biotechnology.
Beattie told Business Day last week that although Queensland was the biggest exporter of coal in the world, with South Africa coming second, the two were not competitors. Rather, he said, they had similar interests in developing clean coal technology to ensure the long-term future of their coal sectors.
Queensland is also interested in entering into partnerships with South Africa in training and skills development against a global background of skills shortages, especially in mining and engineering.
Beattie added that his state had no intention of poaching skilled South African workers, but in the case of companies like Anglo Coal, which operates both in Queensland and South Africa, staff with specific skills could be moved around to address particular needs.
As such, 200 South African freight train drivers would be heading for Queensland for further skills and training. According to Engineering News, both South Africa and Queensland make use of the narrow-gauge rail system.
“We are happy to help where we can,” Beattie told Engineering News, adding that Queensland could offer expertise in various areas, such as maintenance, signalling and freight-forwarding systems, among others.
Another area where partnerships could be useful was for South African companies hoping to do business in China, to use Queensland’s proximity to China as a base, just as SA was an ideal location for Australian companies planning to do business in Africa.
In return, Queensland is looking for investors in its Northern Economic Triangle, where it plans to develop infrastructure to support private sector investment in industrial development and minerals processing, as well as the Surat Basin, which contains about 4-billion tons of steam coal.
The Queensland government is currently investing Aus $1-billion in a clean coal technology called Zerogen, an electricity generator now in the pilot stage. They are hoping to implement the technology in a power station within the next year.
Beattie told Business Day that the real issue was not whether the technology worked, but getting it at the right price. Still, he said though it would more expensive than traditional coal-fired plants, it would remain cheaper than nuclear power.