There’s going to be plenty of debate about Chalco over the next few months, but if you look at the matter realistically there are only three factors that will prevent the Chalco project going ahead.
The first is a groundswell of public opinion large enough to sink the project.
That’s going to be a difficult task and I haven’t seen any sign of the anti-Chalco argument gaining enough traction in the community to succeed.
The second is the Environmental Impact Study, which will need to be done before the development starts.
Personally, given the fact that the previous Federal Government approved the pulp mill in northern Tasmania in spite of very real environmental concerns I wouldn’t be holding my breath and hoping the Chalco development will be rejected on environmental grounds.
The pulp mill, at present, seems unlikely to go ahead because of the third factor that could conceivably stop Chalco - a difficulty in acquiring the finance that is needed to fund the project.
A cynic would suggest that the pulp mill was always going to have difficulty raising the necessary capital and that the failure to reject it on environmental issues was prompted by a desire to hold up the Coalition vote in northern Tasmania at the last Federal election.
While it seems that the pulp mill will, in the end, founder due to an inability to finance the project I doubt that Chalco will have the same problem, even in the current economic environment.
And if the current economic slump is bad enough to bring Chalco to a grinding halt I’d suggest that we’re in for a very nasty time indeed.
In any case, while environmental issues could conceivably affect industrial development around Abbot Point, I think a betting man would be taking very short odds on the general cargo scenario outlined above and that if the Chalco proposal is rejected something else will, eventually, end up in the industrial precinct even if that doesn’t happen as soon as some people might like.