200,000 tonnes/year, for the next twenty years, of green “residual” timber will be taken from the South-East forests. Heads, butts & larger limbs of the trees will be used.

During this initial 20 year period, State Forests brochures say that the company plans to establish plantations in the Murray Darling area which will supply the wood for the second 20 year period of the life of the plant.

State Forests claim that until now a total of about 138,000 tonnes/yr (sawlogs, other products such as poles/fence posts and pulpwood) was being taken from South East forests. They also claim that about 135,000 tonnes is left in the forest, some of which is used for firewood. This 135,000 tonnes, including firewood plus salvage sawlogs and some of the 65,000 tonnes of pulpwood going to Eden, will be diverted for charcoal. (State Forests claim that 95% of the nutrients are in the bark, twigs and leaves – these are burnt to make them more accessible to plants – ie no humus. But wood rots to form humus – what effect will the loss of humus have on soil, biota, water retention, and forest productivity? – humus holds its own weight in water).

State Forests brochures state that “The Lithgow Silicon Project proposes to utilise low quality forest residues as a carbon source for the manufacture of high quality silicon”. Yet they claim that they need tree species that are not currently logged.

The company says that all of the timber required will come from existing logging residue and that no more trees will be felled as a part of the charcoal logging. The reality is that experience all around the country has shown that high volume, low value woodchip and charcoal operations entrench intensive industrial operations and generate major additional logging. At the charcoal plant in WA – what are on the trucks coming from the forests there? LOGS, not residue. The company claims that “if saw log quality timber is delivered to the [Mogo] facility these logs will be stockpiled for sale to the local sawmills for processing into the local timber market”.

The company and State Forests both make the following statement: “NO TREE WILL BE CUT DOWN FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF CHARCOAL PRODUCTION”. That statement means NOTHING because there are many reasons why a tree could be cut down where most or all of the tree would remain for use in the charcoal plant (eg silviculture, using small branches for firewood, or wood chips).

State Forests have a puzzling tree category called “standing waste” which they apply to particular species or to trees that are not shaped well. Most people would consider most “standing waste” to be perfectly good trees! This standing waste would be used in the charcoal plant.

The cheapest way of getting timber from a forest is cutting logs. Removing logging residue is logistically difficult and expensive.

There is also this nagging question about the tree poisoning in the area.

The whole timber supply of 200,00 tonnes a year for the next twenty years is to come from the South Coast and adjoining Great Divide, the old Batemans Bay and Queanbeyan State Forest Management Areas, ie the South Coast Subregion of the Southern RFA Region. One third of the supply is to come from each of the north, south and west of the Subregion.

This means even more intensive, industrial forestry and woodchipping operations from Nowra to Narooma and out to Braidwood, Captains Flat and points south, on Canberra’s doorstep. The forests to be strip-mined include Monga/Buckenbowra, Tallaganda, the unprotected Badja and Deua Wilderness areas and the Clyde River Catchment.

The outcome of such operations is to turn native forests into de-facto plantations with huge damage to biodiversity and water catchments. No supply is proposed from the Tumut Subregion forests at this stage.

The Southern Regional Forest Agreement provides for 48,500m3 of quota quality large sawlogs a year from the South Coast (but 6,500m3 of this does not yet exist as it depends on private land purchases and plantation establishment] as well as 3,500m3 of quota quality small sawlogs).

State Forests maintain that only residue timber from sawlog operations will be used. This means 200,000 tonnes a year of residue from 45,500m3 of sawlogs on top of pulp logs (ie Eden woodchip plant) of up to 90,000 tonnes a year, also supposedly sourced from saw log operations.

Regarding the conversion of tonnes to cubic metres, written information from State Forests states that the weighted average over the various species is 1.13 tonnes of timber to a m3, but other State Forest sources say the conversion factor is 0.77 tonnes to a m3. This is being checked – the higher figure appears at odds with density of desirable timbers notified in earlier charcoal proposals.

The residue wood wanted for charcoal is the butt (10cm above ground to about 2.5m up the trunk) and the top (just below the main branches plus any parts of the major branches with diameter > 150mm and length of at least 2m).

The planning approval given in late 2000 for the Silicon Plant at Lithgow requires that more than 50% of the timber supply for the smelter’s charcoal will come from outside NSW, however, the company is in negotiations with the NSW Government to waive this condition.

We understand that the company is still negotiating with Victoria for timber supply from East Gippsland forests (the economics of distance and power infrastructure costs seems to make Victoria an outside chance).

Logs will be debarked in the forest and carted to the charcoal plant. They will be cut into plate sized rounds about 100mm thick by a sawmill on site, and stockpiled to air-dry for about 12 months until the moisture content is <+25%. Wood with a higher moisture content require extra fuel to carbonise the charcoal (LPG will be used).

Logging operations will probably be mechanical harvesting and grapple snigging (ie high impact, low employment operations).

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