No sight of new mines

The former Coalition government has defended its pursuit to develop new Latrobe Valley coal mines amid Labor claims it had overstated progress of the secretive plan.

However the staunch defence by former regional development minister Peter Ryan has shed no new light on how close its coal allocation plan had come to fruition, or whether it had successfully attracted any concrete interest from the private sector.

The coal allocation plan first emerged in 2011, with the intention of opening up 13 billion tonnes worth of unallocated brown coal reserves to supply emerging technology projects, however the process was plagued with numerous delays.

On Monday Victoria’s new energy and mining minister Lily D’Ambrosio accused the Coalition of “talking up” the plan’s progress, adding the former government “may not have been all that truthful” when communicating its success to the public.

In response, Mr Ryan said the first stages of allocation “were in play” in conjunction with three government funded alternative coal projects, which are tipped to begin construction phases at Yallourn and Loy Yang power stations in 2015 through the Advanced Lignite Development Program.

“Our focus was on encouraging forms of development which would enable the use of the brown coal in conjunction with the emerging technologies,” Mr Ryan said.

“In addition we undertook a substantial process of discussion and consultation with a large number of potential consumers, both domestically and internationally.

“The ultimate aim was to have coal allocations directed to those entities wishing to use the resource in conjunction with new technology.”

Mr Ryan said Ms D’Ambrosio was “trying to hedge her bets” and described her comments as creating a stark contrast to Labor’s failed attempt to make coal allocations in 2002.

“The Labor party in opposition made great play of their supposed commitment to the future of the Latrobe Valley,” he said.

“She has been in her role for only a few days but already she is backing away from this great opportunity.

“The appropriate use of the huge brown coal reserves to create new industries and drive employment growth must be part of that future.

“We will watch will interest how Labor now moves to keep its multiple promises to the communities of the Latrobe Valley, particularly around this issue.”