NATHAN Tinkler’s hunt for $30 million from “sophisticated” investors for a Dartbrook open cut coal mine has hit a grim wall of creditors warning likely backers to “run the other way when Tinkler asks for money”.
The Hunter’s own “boganaire” painted a rosy future for Dartbrook in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange on Tuesday, but Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen summed up the mood when he said Mr Tinkler should “concentrate on righting the wrongs” from previous business failures.
“He should concentrate on paying back people he owes money to,” Mr Johnsen said.
“He’s hurt a lot of people in the Upper Hunter with his activities and he’s got a very poor reputation because of it. He should address that before he starts talking about new ventures.”
Denman Dapkos rural store owner John Aurisch, owed thousands with the collapse of Mr Tinkler’s Patinack Farm and an offer of just three cents in the dollar to creditors, said “no one could be serious about getting into bed” with Mr Tinkler.
The joining of Mr Tinkler and Dartbrook mine, its underground operations mothballed in 2006 after the deaths of three workers, and not revived despite a seven year coal boom, was “a perfect storm”, Mr Aurisch said.
“People should run the other way when Tinkler asks for money,” he said.
Mr Tinkler’s plans for the first open cut coalmine in Upper Hunter Shire will meet stiff opposition from environmentalists and Upper Hunter Shire Council, whose mayor Wayne Bedggood described the prospect as “distressing”.
An open cut Dartbrook mine would be only 10 kilometres from thoroughbred horse studs and large landholdings, including a property owned by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Bedggood said.
“Upper Hunter Shire Council doesn’t condone open cut or underground coal mining, it’s been quite vocal on that, and that’s not going to change regardless of who the applicant might be,” he said.
Mr Tinkler told the Australian Stock Exchange the company he heads, Australian Pacific Coal, would apply to the NSW Government for a 20-year licence to run the mine, after confirming a bid for an 83.33 per cent share in the former Anglo American operation.
The move was to “ride on the demand” for low cost, high quality coal in a world demonstrating increasing concerns about greenhouse emissions, he said.
The company has until January 31 to secure sufficient funding of $25 million cash to complete the acquisition by mid-year. He expected the Aberdeen mine to be “favourably considered (by the NSW Government mine assessment process) due to the approvals of adjacent existing open cut mines”.
Dartbrook represented “a rare opportunity to acquire a large scale, underexploited thermal coal asset” to produce five million tonnes of coal per year. Existing infrastructure and facilities would substantially reduce development costs, he said.
The low sulphur Dartbrook coal “enhances the marketability of the product through blending with other less desirable higher sulphur Hunter Valley coals”.
Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis analyst Tim Buckley said Mr Tinkler was “working towards a mine employing miners at low wage rates and conditions, with existing infrastructure in place”.
A key issue was that Mr Tinkler’s company had taken on the $7.7 million of financial assurance for Dartbrook’s mine rehabilitation obligations, Mr Buckley said.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union district president Peter Jordan said the union welcomed any new mine, but had “grave doubts” about Mr Tinkler’s involvement.
In response to Herald questions about Mr Tinkler, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission referred to Section s206F of the Corporations Act, which gives it the power to ban someone from managing a company for five years if two or more of their companies fall insolvent while they are a director, or within a year of them being a director. The Herald understands this could apply to Mr Tinkler.
Mr Tinkler did not respond to questions, despite his Singapore publicists offering the Herald an interview.