Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps


sustainable development

Local conservation groups call for tailings dam in Tambo River catchment to be rejected

Gippsland Environment Group (GEG) recently organised a site visit to the Benambra mine tailings dam in the headwaters of the Tambo River to discuss mining company CopperChem’s proposal to re-open and massively expand the dam. The visit raised considerable alarm among all who attended. The Stockman mine has long been a controversial project and plans to re-open the operation have caused serious concerns in the community.

The following report comes from GEG:

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The environment and the Tasmanian election

The Tasmanian election is largely being fought on ‘bread and butter’ issues like health, jobs and education. Gambling and the future of pokies is also a significant issue. But around the edges of debate there are some interesting promises and policy commitments around the natural environment.

While environment debate during elections tends to focus on forestry issues, this time, the future of existing national parks and reserves has been more dominant. With Tasmania looking to develop new tourism opportunities, especially in the realm of nature-based tourism, the park system is seen as the next frontier by the state government, which has been pursuing private development with national parks.

The following covers some of the debate and policy being announced about the natural environment in Tasmania. The election will be held on March 3. It does not seek to cover broader energy or climate issues.

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More private development in Tasmania’s parks system?

Negotiations are underway to allow ‘no fewer’ than six private hut-based walks under the Tasmanian government’s wilderness tourism expression of interest program.

Continue reading “More private development in Tasmania’s parks system?”

Dinner Plain ‘village green’ update

At a recent meeting the Alpine Shire has confirmed that the ‘Village Green’ planned for Dinner Plain near Mt Hotham will not proceed in its current form. However it will continue to look into options for a ‘lower impact’ public space in the village.

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Dinner Plain polo field to be ditched?

The proposal for a ‘village green’ in the alpine village of Dinner Plain would have seen almost 2 hectares of snow gum woodland cleared and significant visual impacts on the village. After a long consultation and planning process, the Alpine Council needs to take a final decision on whether to proceed with the development.

In a welcome move, Council Officers who have been assessing the concept report that there is ‘not majority community support for this project’ and recommend that it should not proceed. Council will take a final decision at a meeting on Monday December 18.

Continue reading “Dinner Plain polo field to be ditched?”

Clean energy to power Mt Stirling facilities

The Victorian government has announced a renewable energy project at Mt Stirling, which will allow the resort to switch its system from its current reliance on diesel. Additional commitments include toilets and ‘community shelters’ at Howqua Gap and the Machinery Shed, and an ‘all- weather access track’ from King Saddle to Machinery Shed.

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A ‘MCG’ sized oval at Dinner Plain?

There has been a long planning process around how the alpine village of Dinner Plain should be developed. Most businesses struggle with the extremely seasonal nature of the tourist trade, and residents can struggle because the small number of permanents makes it difficult to sustain basic services like the supermarket through out the year.

Continue reading “A ‘MCG’ sized oval at Dinner Plain?”

Ski resorts go renewable


The following comes from the ESPN Action Sports website and shows what is possible with a bit of effort and vision.

Panels at McMillan Lodge, Mt Hotham, VIC

As the environmental agenda continues to slip from the concerns of most resort management bodies in Australia, it has been the snow sports community who have stepped into a leadership position, with a large number of lodges and businesses signing up for solar PV panels over the past year, especially at Mt Hotham.

The following is the introduction to the article, please check the website for the full piece.

The author is Jesse Huffman.

U.S. ski resorts tap renewable energy sources to combat climate change

As the volatility of the 2011-12 season made clear, the stake ski resort’s have in resolving climate change is a big one. Over the past three years, resorts like Bolton, Burke, Jiminy Peak and Grouse Mountain have installed wind turbines, while others have pursued efficiency updates, in an effort to responsibly produce, and reduce, the power and heat involved in swinging chairs and heating lodges all winter long. Now, four more areas, from local ski hills in the Northeast to major resorts in the Rockies, have installed or invested in renewable power sources ranging from solar to biomass to coalmine methane.

Smuggler’s Notch closed early this winter after a spring meltdown saw the highest March temperatures in Vermont’s history. The same solar energy that drove skiers and riders batty as it took away their snow is now being put to use by an array of 35 solar trackers, which collectively produce 205,000 kWh per year — around five percent of Smuggler’s total electrical use. The array provides enough juice for most of the resort’s Village Lodge.

Dan Maxon, Smuggler’s Notch Solar Installation Project Manager, toured me through the installation on a recent morning, when the GPS-enabled trackers, manufactured by a Vermont company called ALLEarth Renewables, were tilted east to catch the a.m. sun.

“We believe it is important not only for ski resorts, but for all energy users to take some responsibility for their energy consumption,” Maxon told me. “There was a good confluence of energy and desire that made this project come together — we’d been looking at various renewable projects for six-seven years, but couldn’t pull them off. This one we could.”

Aspen is often seen as being one of the greenest of the global resorts, so I have included the section of the essay that relates to them. Coal bed methane is a fiercely contested issue across many parts of the world, so Aspen’s choice of energy source is interesting:

In Colorado, Aspen Ski Company is taking a leading role in developing an innovative form of clean energy from coalmine methane. The practice of venting methane from coalmines to prevent underground explosions has turned into a climate change bottleneck with 20 times more warming potential than CO2, coalmine methane contributed ten percent of the all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, according to the EPA.

Aspen is the capital investor in a new project at Elk Creek Mine that uses waste methane to power a dynamo and generate electricity, downgrading the methane to CO2 and at the same time. The project is a first of its scale in the United States, and helped net the resort a National Ski Area Association Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence this year.

“We’ve been looking for a large scale clean energy project for over a decade and we finally found one,” says Auden Schendler, Aspen Vice President of Sustainability.

Schendler expects the 3 megawatt project to go online around September, and says that in a matter of month it will make approximately the same amount of electricity that Aspen uses annually, around 25 million kilowatt hours. “Because we’re destroying methane in the process,” adds Schendler, “this is equivalent to triple offsetting our carbon footprint each year.”


report on the 2011 Alpine Resorts Sustainability Forum

The following report comes from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
‘Diversity – beyond the boundaries’

An exceptional seventh annual Alpine Resorts Sustainability Forum was hosted by the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) and held 9-10 May 2011 at Lake Crackenback Resortexternal link, Jindabyne NSW. This years forum theme was ‘Diversity – beyond the boundaries’.

The forum was officially opened by Bob Conroy, Executive Director Park Management Division, OEH. Mr Conroy emphasised the NSW government would not forsake environmental responsibility in the pursuit of being economically competitive. He also spoke about the challenge that the Australian alpine resort industry faces on a daily basis while managing businesses in Australia’s fragile alpine environment. Mr Conroy announced that in 2011 NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service will be publishing the inaugural annual NSW alpine resorts environmental performance report covering Kosciuszko National Park.

Three outstanding keynote speakers: Professor Mike Archer a vertebrate palaeontologist and mammalogist; Rachael Oakes-Ash, social media commentator and ski journalist; and the futurist Mark Pesce delivered thought-provoking presentations. The remainder of the program included presenters, workshop facilitators and field trips. The other presenters challenged people’s thinking when they spoke on a broad range of topics including improved initiatives in sustainable use and management of alpine resorts including better use of technology, social networking sites, sustainable tourism and marketing and environmental reporting as well as the development of improved snowmobiles.

All presentations will be available on this site from 23 May 2011.

Delegates had wonderful networking opportunities throughout the forum, particularly at the opening dinner and at one of four workshops or fieldtrips: ‘Thredbo EMS: the Challenge of the EMS in an Alpine Environment’; ‘Climbing the Social Media Ladder’; ‘Keys to Successful Rehabilitation in the Alps’; and a guided mountain bike ride On the Tourism Track in Thredbo Valley’.

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