Tiger­cat takes on Far North Queens­land

The Wik Timber project based in Weipa and Au­rukun on the re­mote Western Cape York Penin­sula of Australia pur­chases two Tiger­cat ma­chines for an ex­cit­ing new op­er­a­tion. -- Glen Marley, dis­trict man­ager, Aus­trala­sia and south­east Asia

Australian Forests and Timber - - Forestry Machines -

The Wik Timber project re­cently pur­chased two Tiger­cat ma­chines for its log­ging op­er­a­tions south of the Em­b­ley River, on the Western Cape York Penin­sula. They were put to work clear­ing land for Rio Tinto Alu­minium, to al­low the min­ing gi­ant ac­cess to the abun­dant sup­ply of Baux­ite. The rock, a pri­mary ore of alu­minium, is ex­tracted and ex­ported to the lu­cra­tive Asian mar­ket from this very re­mote north­ern re­gion of Australia. Wik Timber Hold­ings is an In­dige­nous busi­ness and the timber har­vest­ing, wood­chip­ping and seed col­lec­tion op­er­a­tions will pro­vide jobs for lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple res­i­dent in and around Au­rukun and Napranum.

Wik Projects strate­gic ini­tia­tives and op­er­a­tions man­ager is Jacky Caste­lain. His se­nior man­age­ment team in­cludes his daugh­ter Gina Caste­lain, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Wik Timber and Mark An­nan­dale, re­search man­ager for Trop­i­cal Forests and Peo­ple Re­search Cen­tre at the Univer­sity of the Sun­shine Coast in Queens­land. Sev­eral other highly mo­ti­vated and dy­namic peo­ple are work­ing on this project and based in and around Weipa. Jacky is very hand­son with the op­er­a­tions. With very high lev­els of so­cial dis­ad­van­tage and few em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, Au­rukun has been re­cently de­scribed as a com­mu­nity in cri­sis. Gina, over­see­ing a group of Wik and Wik Waya owned busi­nesses aim­ing to gen­er­ate jobs, in­come and in­de­pen­dence for the Wik peo­ple es­ti­mates, “Prob­a­bly 98 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in the re­gion is on wel­fare or part of the wel­fare de­pen­dency cy­cle. We want to cre­ate real jobs – peo­ple in mean­ing­ful jobs and on their tra­di­tional coun­try. It’s heart­break­ing and a real waste to see the timber pushed up and burned. And we can’t con­tinue to keep wast­ing this valu­able timber re­source.”

Over the past five decades of baux­ite min­ing on Cape York, mine site prepa­ra­tion has in­volved us­ing bull­doz­ers pulling chains to clear the for­est, fol­lowed by windrow­ing and burn­ing to waste. Two key ar­eas of In­dige­nous com­mu­nity con­cern are the cur­rent pre-min­ing man­age­ment prac­tices and the out­comes of post-min­ing land­scape re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ef­forts.

Cur­rently, baux­ite min­ing op­er­a­tions clear and burn an av­er­age of ap­prox­i­mately 1 500 hectares (3,700 acres) of na­tive for­est per year, rep­re­sent­ing ap­prox­i­mately 210 000 tonnes (230,000 tons) of for­est biomass. Rio Tinto’s Am­run project – ex­tend­ing min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties south of the Em­b­ley River, be­tween Weipa and Au­rukun – is es­ti­mated to re­quire ad­di­tional clear­ing of around 28 000 hectares (70,000 acres) of for­est, rep­re­sent­ing around 4,2 mil­lion tonnes (4.6 mil­lion tons) of for­est biomass. “Sub­stan­tial quan­ti­ties of green­house gases are be­ing emit­ted, says Gina. “Baux­ite min­ing is ex­pected to con­tinue for at least an­other 50 years and the con­tin­ued burn­ing of for­est prod­ucts would be a ma­jor lost com­mer­cial busi­ness and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­nity for the re­gion’s In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and a sig­nif­i­cant on­go­ing source of green­house gas pol­lu­tion.”

Gina, along with other In­dige­nous com­mu­nity lead­ers, knew they were not mak­ing use out of the high value timber – Dar­win Stringy­bark, Cook­town Iron­wood and Melville Is­land Blood­wood – that was be­ing dis­posed of. Sound har­vest­ing with a di­verse range of prod­ucts, in­clud­ing saw logs, peeler logs and biomass chips, along with value-adding op­er­a­tions seemed to be the log­i­cal long-term an­swer. De­mand

The ini­tia­tive and drive of the Wik Timber Hold­ings team is im­prov­ing the ed­u­ca­tion and long-term em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for the Wik and Wik Waya peo­ple.

for the var­i­ous prod­ucts is ex­pected to come from Chi­nese, Viet­namese and do­mes­tic sawmillers and man­u­fac­tur­ers of timber-based prod­ucts. In ad­di­tion, power trans­mis­sion poles will be mar­keted to elec­tric­ity dis­trib­u­tors, Rio Tinto Alu­minium will re­quire rail­way sleep­ers, and Rio Tinto Alu­minium and others will de­mand chips for mine re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

The Wik and Wik Waya peo­ple have a rich his­tory as­so­ci­ated with log­ging, milling and home build­ing in this re­gion go­ing back well over 100 years. The Au­rukun and Napranum com­mu­ni­ties both op­er­ated sawmills to sup­ply prod­ucts such as home build­ing ma­te­ri­als, lo­cal farm fenc­ing and rail­way sleep­ers up un­til the Napranum mill fi­nally stopped pro­duc­tion in 2012.

A long tra­di­tion of sus­tain­able and re­spon­si­ble for­est, land, en­vi­ron­men­tal, his­tor­i­cal, and cul­tural man­age­ment in this re­gion guides the vi­tally im­por­tant goal of de­vel­op­ing a com­mer­cially vi­able and sus­tain­able busi­ness plan for for­est har­vest­ing, as well as fire man­age­ment and mine re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion op­er­a­tions. When at full scale, the busi­ness will pro­duce up to 125 000 tonnes (138,000 tons) of timber and other for­est prod­ucts an­nu­ally for in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic mar­kets. An­nual turnover is ex­pected to be around $6 mil­lion. The op­er­a­tions will em­ploy 70 lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

This par­tic­u­lar project has been seven­teen years in the mak­ing. The har­vest­ing con­cept started back in 2000, with Rio Tinto of­fer­ing a Let­ter of Agree­ment in 2008, and the Queens­land State govern­ment min­is­ter is­su­ing a Let­ter of Sup­port that same year to the Wik and Wik Waya com­mu­nity el­ders and lead­ers. The Op­er­a­tional Har­vest Plan was fi­nally se­cured in De­cem­ber 2016. Many de­tailed tri­als and stud­ies were com­pleted and a full Ac­cess Agree­ment with Rio Tinto was close to sign off.

At that point, Jacky set about se­cur­ing the most re­li­able and ro­bust for­est har­vest­ing ma­chines he could find for this very re­mote lo­ca­tion. The re­sult was the pur­chase of a 610E skid­der as well as an S855D shovel log­ger equipped with the 5195 di­rec­tional felling saw and the feller di­rec­tor boom sys­tem.

The ma­chines were de­liv­ered in

Au­gust 2017 to Hey Point on the south­ern side of the huge Em­b­ley River.

Gina re­ports that “our first sales agree­ment is close to be­ing fi­nal­ized with Curly Tat­nell Dale & Mey­ers Op­er­a­tions Pty Ltd. Dale & Mey­ers is ex­pected to take Dar­win Stringy­bark and Blood­wood sawlogs as made avail­able by Wik Timber Hold­ings Pty Lim­ited, up to a max­i­mum of 3 500 tonnes for the re­main­der of 2017 and 25 000 tonnes in 2018.” That’s great news for the bur­geon­ing op­er­a­tions.

In ad­di­tion, Wik Projects has part­nered with the Univer­sity of the Sun­shine Coast Trop­i­cal Forests and Peo­ple Re­search Cen­tre and the Queens­land govern­ment to in­ves­ti­gate the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the wood­chip gen­er­ated from land clear­ing for baux­ite min­ing. Mark and his team are cur­rently as­sess­ing the wood­chip’s po­ten­tial as a bio­fuel through gasi­fi­ca­tion, pro­duc­tion of pel­lets, or other pro­cesses, in ad­di­tion to the po­ten­tial in mine re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ar­eas to im­prove soils and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion out­comes. Im­por­tantly, th­ese op­tions will be fur­ther con­sid­ered for their In­dige­nous busi­ness and In­dige­nous em­ploy­ment out­comes. “Imag­ine if we can demon­strate that we can col­lect sawlogs for our sawmills, process some for ve­neer, uti­lize some logs for power poles and then uti­lize the rest as wood­chips to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity for Au­rukun through In­dige­nous owned busi­ness and re­place diesel power gen­er­a­tors. And all of this from for­est re­sources that have been tra­di­tion­ally cleared and burnt for over 50 years,” says Gina.

Mark adds that his “in­ner Bris­bane Stringy­bark Cot­tage is a show home for the high value timber that the Wik want to sal­vage: Dar­win Stringy­bark and Cook­town Iron­wood. Th­ese species are in the high­est value cat­e­gories and can be used for any con­struc­tion pur­pose in hous­ing. One of the beau­ties for the mar­ket,” con­tin­ues Mark “is the range of colours from light gold colours suited to do­mes­tic mar­kets through to the red tim­bers favoured by the China and Ja­pan mar­kets. Th­ese Cape York tim­bers pro­vide that spec­trum.” With har­vest­ing, trans­port and port ac­cess plan­ning com­plete, the log­ging op­er­a­tions are now in their ini­tial stages. Phil Turn­bull (One­trak ter­ri­tory man­ager for NSW, QLD, and NT), Brad Mad­den (One­trak se­nior field service tech­ni­cian), Steve Green (Tiger­cat Aus­tralian prod­uct sup­port man­ager) and my­self ar­rived at the re­mote Hey Point op­er­a­tions along with the two ma­chines for the three-day de­liv­ery and start-up tri­als.

Jacky stated af­ter the de­liv­ery and start-up that the Tiger­cat ma­chines were “very strong and well built” and that he was “very happy that he bought Tiger­cat.” Then he asked with a big grin on his face, “When are you guys go­ing to start build­ing min­ing and con­struc­tion equip­ment?”

Gina and her team spoke to many ex­ist­ing log­gers around Australia be­fore choos­ing Tiger­cat. The re­sult was a rec­om­men­da­tion to Jacky to in­vest in a brand name that – as an ex­pe­ri­enced mine clear­ing op­er­a­tor – he had never heard of. Once Jacky watched the 5195 equipped S855D fall­ing th­ese large, mixed eu­ca­lypt trees and then bunch­ing them up for the nim­ble but pow­er­ful 610E skid­der, he knew they had made the cor­rect de­ci­sion.

Now a few months on, Jacky says, “The ma­chines are run­ning well and the One­trak and Tiger­cat guys so far have been very good to deal with and help­ful with our op­er­a­tions.” Both units are fit­ted with Tiger­cat’s Re­moteLogTM telem­at­ics sys­tem, with real time ma­chine data re­layed via satel­lite. The Wik Timber Hold­ings service and sup­port team can mon­i­tor each ma­chine’s work­ing po­si­tion­ing, pro­duc­tion and fuel ef­fi­ciency at any time, as well as be ad­vised im­me­di­ately of any tech­ni­cal is­sues to proac­tively mon­i­tor per­for­mance. They can use the sys­tem to man­age sched­uled ser­vic­ing and main­te­nance quickly and ac­cu­rately.

The ini­tia­tive and drive of the Wik Timber Hold­ings team is im­prov­ing the ed­u­ca­tion and long-term em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for the Wik and Wik Waya peo­ple. In ad­di­tion, the team is lead­ing the way with much im­proved man­age­ment of the Aus­tralian north­ern min­ing leases by uti­liz­ing a sus­tain­able and valu­able forestry re­source. The team is ac­com­plish­ing all this while shoul­der­ing the ad­di­tional and in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant cul­tural re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Per­haps this is just the tip of the ice­berg for min­ing op­er­a­tional land clear­ing prac­tices in Australia go­ing for­ward.

■ Jacky Caste­lain is im­pressed with the build qual­ity of the ma­chines.

■ The new 610E skid­der pulling a hard­wood drag.

The Wik and Wik Waya peo­ple have a rich his­tory as­so­ci­ated with log­ging and milling go­ing back well over 100 years.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.