How far is 2km? Across the coalmine!

If you stand on Fraser Avenue at the back of Anglesea, you can’t see the coal mine that is a few hundred metres to your north. It’s behind the low coastal scrublands and of course, a big hole in the ground is hard to notice until you stumble right upon it. But it’s undeniably there.

If you live in Anglesea, there might appear to be little you can do about the coal mine and power station. It has been there since 1961, and owner Alcoa is seeking a 50 year extension of it’s original lease and an extension of the mine. We hope that this course is averted.

As Cam noted here after spending some time around Anglesea, “most people aren’t too keen on the idea and are certainly grumpy when you explain that if it was a single wind turbine they would have a right of veto, yet the 2,000 residents that live within 2 km of the Alcoa coal mine don’t have this right.”

The new state government’s declared 2km right of veto would place the nearest potential turbines on the other side of the coal mine, even though there is no health hazard from wind turbines – yet dust from open cut coal mining has well established and serious health hazards.

Anglesea: coal mine and power station proximities


In the Latrobe Valley, if you lived on the southern side of Morwell, you would be less than 500m from the edge of the coalmine. The 2km buffer zone would see wind located as far away as the (small, but highly polluting) Morwell power station, almost all the way to Hazelwood power station. In this case you would have to go even further than 2km to reach the other side of the mine.

As Environment Victoria have pointed out, the proposed HRL power station is to be built within 2km of hundreds of houses.

If you lived at Newborough or Yallourn North, you would be less than 2km from Yallourn, another old clunker of a polluting brown coal power station. You would have no say in it. Yet you could veto any wind turbines being placed between you and the power station.

And in the big smoke…

If we go further afield than coal mines, or in fact closer to home for suburbanites, there are many similar examples in urban areas.

If you lived on Ross Road in Altona North, you would only be a couple of hundred metres from the Mobil petrochemical refinery across the railway. Yet you could veto any wind farm closer than the pier at Altona Beach, on the other side of the refinery, Cherry Lake and another suburb.

If you live in Hyde St, Yarraville, you are less than a kilometre from the chemical storage tanks at Coode Island that blew up in an enormous fireball in 1991. You could veto any wind farm closer than the Bolte Bridge, almost all the way in to the Docklands precinct.

Across Melbourne’s inner western suburbs, residents are suffering the noise and exhaust emissions of 21,000 semi-trailer trucks spewing cancer-causing diesel exhaust fumes into the air every day. They are also much louder than a wind farm!  These trucks use residential streets. It is a relatively new phenomenon:  the houses were there long before such large numbers of trucks. Truck numbers really grew in the 1990s with the Western Ring Road and CityLink developments changing traffic flows.

Despite years of protest by local residents in Yarraville and Footscray,  the only action taken by government has been a fairly ineffective curfew. The new on-ramp to the Westgate Freeway proposed by the previous ALP state government, which would be a solution for Francis St residents, appears to have been abandoned by the new Liberal government.

Yet if someone wanted to build a wind turbine nearby, residents’ veto could force it to be located all the way across the Westgate bridge (another major carrier of diesel trucks, much closer than 2km to many homes).

Not all of these industrial proximities are being actively protested by residents, but then neither are all wind farm developments. Nor should they. We need to ask the government, why is it that they are so keen to “protect” residents from no-pollution wind turbines, when we have such dire examples of real, indisputably harmful pollution across the state?

In most of these cases, one could object that the industrial areas are well established and in some cases were there first. That’s little consolation to people suffering chronic asthma or other respiratory disease. An extension of the Anglesea coalmine, like the HRL plant, is a new development in any case. Why continue on this path when clean alternatives are available? Saying “Not In My Back Yard” to wind power can too easily translate into a coal mine in someone else’s back yard.

16 thoughts on “How far is 2km? Across the coalmine!

  1. If you stand on Fraser Avenue at the back of Anglesea, you can’t see the coal mine that is a few hundred metres to your north. It’s behind the low coastal scrublands and of course, a big hole in the ground is hard to notice until you stumble right upon it. I think you got it in one Ben, a hole in the ground is hard to see, a 155m tall turbine with rotating blades the size of a jumbo jet casting shadows in winter up to 3km long is pretty hard to hide. While I agree that mining should meet all environmental conditions before being allowed. I do know that the Anglesea coal mine and power station was in existence before many moved to live in the area. Which is another issue with turbines that a 2km buffer can mitigate the impact of wind farms because turbines were (before a 2km buffer) being imposed on communities that are already in existence.

  2. Gerard, if the “visual amenity” was the only issue to compare coal vs wind is a big if. IF you are up higher above a mine so you can see it, or can hear the mine equipment operating, or see the lights at night or breathe the dust or face a water table destroyed by the mine, then you might be more amenable to wind turbines that you can see, no? And that short list off the top of my head doesn’t even scratch the surface of carbon emissions and climate change.

  3. There is a great website on the Alcoa mine set up by a coalition of locals:
    which highlights the health impacts of the mine.

    I was shocked to visit the new primary school this week and see how close it is to the smoke stack. Its a shame Gerard can’t get over his wind farm phobia and recognise a real environmental justice issue when he sees one.

  4. If you want to drive industry and jobs offshore support wind. You cannot run an aluminium smelter with a power supply that only supplies electricity 0n average 23% of the time. As I said once before support for wind over coal is an endorsement for nuclear power. I think you windies are being sucker punched!

    1. It’s a ridiculous straw figure to suggest that anyone is advocating we run the whole electricity grid on wind only. No-one that I know of has ever advocated that.Check Beyond Zero Emissions and read their zero carbon Australia plan for example.

      1. Or for that matter, this blog itself canvasses all the renewable options even if we’re focusing on wind right now…

  5. This weeks ‘simplistic analysis’ award goes to Gerard for this gem:

    “If you want to drive industry and jobs offshore support wind”.

    Yeah, right, Gerard (lets ignore the recent announcement from Portland: “Portland wind tower manufacturer to expand operations” ).

    All our disasterous manufacturing policies, lack of ability to support local procurement policies, and free trade agreements are not the reason we are losing jobs, its the wind industry… of course, why didn’t I see it before? If my football team loses, can I blame the wind industry, too?

  6. I bet the steel Keppel Prince are using is smelted by base load coal generated electricty and their welders too I don’t think they could afford to wait for the wind to blow to manufacture their wind towers. Perhaps when we are reliant onthe intermittency of wind they will import wind towers from China.

  7. Statements like that, Gerard, show how hopelessly confused and ill-informed you are. Noone, bar noone has ever said that we will ever be 100% wind powered. Eventually our energy mix will probably comprise 20 – 30% wind energy. At that time, when the wind is not blowing other low carbon sources will make up the balance. And by 2030 grid-scale storage is likely to be viable.
    Gerard, there are plenty of sites where you can hang with others who are as confused as you. Why do you persist with your angry drivel here?

  8. By 2030 we will not need as much electricity anyway as most if not all manufacturing jobs will be driven offshore to China by a carbon tax .

    1. By 2030 Australia is already set to lose most of its manufacturing due to lack of industry policy, companies going offshore for lower wages, and other things like that. The inability of Australia’s car companies, the major manufacturers here, to produce low-emissions vehicles (EVs) will probably also see them knocked out as rising fuel prices make heavy fuel-guzzling cars unpopular and unviable.

      But the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has a policy in favour of developing renewable energy as it could create skilled manufacturing jobs here. It’s sensible policy backed up by research.

      Keppel Prince Engineering in Portland employ hundreds and are one of Australia’s 3 wind turbine tower manufacturers. Vestas used to run a blade manufacturing facility next door to Keppel Prince, but closed down due to the stagnant state of the industry.

      In the 1990s, the State Electricity Commission workshops in the Latrobe Valley (attached to the coal power stations) built several wind turbine nacelles. This project was abandoned after privatisation, but demonstrates there is no technical impediment to developing a manufacturing industry in renewables.

      In the move away from fossil fuels there is heaps of scope for manufacturing jobs.

      1. The other things like a carbon dioxide tax that will do nothing to lower global temperatures. You guys live in cloud cuckoo land to think that Australia will have a manufacturing industry in 2030. ALL manufacturing will be done offshore all Australia will be is a big quarry.

  9. Gerard, you’ve dug up so many arguments, you now seem to be throwing our own policy at us. Friends of the Earth is concerned about the carbon price because (among other things) it seems unlikely to do much to lower carbon emissions; and we are also concerned about rampant mining destroying the country. Which are all good reasons why we support the deployment of renewable energy. Are you really thinking before you hit the “post comment” button?

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