Austrade’s David Dukes examines the opportunities for Australian remediation firms in light of China’s resources boom.
“A ruler possesses three treasures: land, people and government. Those who treasure pearls and jade are sure to suffer the consequences of their greed in their own lifetime.”
Chinese tradition places nature and care of the land by good government over ill-begotten gains. This value system is being reclaimed as the Chinese people become more prosperous, the economic and health costs of pollution rise, and the new Chinese middle class seeks to escape to nature from crowded cities. In recent years China has begun taking steps to stop pollution at its source and, with significant government and corporate funding, to remediate or lessen the harmful legacy of rapid industrial development.
Australia’s mining expertise and long mining history form a solid foundation for our major resources exports to China. Fortunately, if not ironically, that expertise is also the basis of a new Australian export to China – environmental remediation technology.
Environmental issues are a priority for Austrade – the Australian Government’s export and investment development agency. Austrade’s clean tech marketing and investment platform in China is the Australia China Wanwu Eco-country Initiative. Wanwu was developed by Austrade to introduce capable Australian firms into Chinese clean-tech projects, and link them to funding opportunities via the Wanwu Advisors Panel.
Wanwu currently has over 100 exporter members. It carries the Wanwu – “万物“myriad things or universe – branding. Wanwu is a Taoist term used to represent the traditional Chinese theme of the unity of man and nature and the importance of conservation.
Given its mix of high technology, infrastructure development and state involvement, the clean
energy and environment market in China is generally not an easy sector for foreign companies to enter, and there is probably no newer or more challenging environmental industry in China than the remediation industry, which deals with the technically difficult and sensitive areas of soil and water remediation from pollution caused by mining, smelting, chemical and other industries, with large doses of heavy metals, organic compounds and other toxic ingredients thrown in.
In the field of remediation, Australia and China share many challenges. We both have an important mining and minerals processing industry, an arid climate (north China), and a growing public demand for a healthy environment.
But there is one big difference.
*Pictured right: Sieving soils (courtesy OTEK)
Australia has put in place a regulatory framework to protect its environment and water resources ahead of China. This has led to the development in Australia of advanced, soil and water remediation techniques. There is now a strong body of remediation expertise in Australia; a number of companies and university and government sponsored bodies (like Centres for Cooperative Research, CSIRO and the Australian Environmental Technologies Group) are already active in China.
Over the last year, Austrade has prioritised remediation as a leading sector of our environmental strategy in China. Building on agreements Austrade has signed on sustainable development with cities like Changsha, and a network of close relations with local economic and environmental officials, Austrade has led six remediation missions of Australian companies to Hunan Province over the past year, and a similar number to Gansu Province. We are also in talks with other localities.
Some Australian remediation companies, closely supported in market by Austrade, have grouped themselves into a cluster for the China market. The recently formed Australian Advanced Remediation Group (AARG) is a “consortium” offering complementary resources and expertise. It finds synergies among group members that have already carried across to cooperation in other markets.
Austrade’s role with cluster members has been to bring them together, locate market opportunities through government-to-government contacts, advise on market strategy, support in project meetings, liaise with the Chinese government for project backing, help with publicity and continue to work closely with them through the negotiation and project implementation process. Austrade is also assisting the cluster arrange funding for group promotional activities like training.
The initial AARG members are environmental services and technology providers:
Earth Systems, focussing on solutions for acid mine drainage, as well as water treatment, lake rehabilitation, wetlands creation and environmental management training
OTEK, dealing with heavy metal polluted land remediation, oil and petroleum contamination remediation, landfill leachate, dredging remediation of toxic river sludge, and outsourcing new environmental technologies.
Creative Water Technologies, offering its innovative technology for treating heavily contaminated industrial waste-water and extracting contaminants for recycling
GHD, a global consulting firm operating in China since 1995 in the environment, water, architecture, urban planning and transport sectors. GHD has a long history of conducting contamination assessment and providing sustainable solutions for problems like heavy metals and hydrocarbon contamination, water treatment, and remediation technology selection
Chung Tin Holdings, offering innovative expertise for recovery of heavy metals from industrial waste.
The AARG members are all actively committed to the Chinese market and possess a good track record and portfolio of successful remediation projects in Australia or abroad.
Projects being considered include cleaning up agricultural and industrial land polluted by industrial processes, treatment of toxic drainage channels, slag heap remediation, planning work for ecological buffer zones, redesign of mining operations to prevent acid mine drainage, and treatment of waste water and tailings dams from minerals treatment.
Cooperation agreements have been signed between Chinese environmental service companies and project owners, while several projects are progressing quickly to contract stage.
*AARG members accompanied by Hunan EPB representatives outside the Hunan EPB, Changsha.
China’s economic planning over the next few years foresees a tightening of environmental standards and the launch of serious remediation work. The remediation market should continue to grow and many Australian companies have much to offer, including in related areas like urban water treatment, recycling, green building and planning, laboratory testing and instrument manufacture.
China’s remediation market is new, challenging and not without local sensitivities. Austrade’s China network, backed up by its teams of industry experts in Australia, is dedicated to turning challenges into opportunities. The Wanwu Initiative links Australia’s image as an environmentally conscious nation to traditional Chinese values of harmony and balance in nature, and remediation is all about restoring that lovely balance.
Australian companies offering technology, services or products in the sectors of clean energy, environment and green-building, with a keen interest in the China market, are invited to apply for inclusion in the Wanwu Initiative. Austrade reserves all rights to select the program participants. ■
You can apply to join at: www.Austrade.cn/auseco/index.html
*David Dukes is Austrade, Trade Commissioner at the Australian Embassy in Beijing where he leads Austrade’s Clean Tech Team in China. Prior to joining Austrade, he was Managing Director of Dukes Consultancy, an international trade and investment consulting company dealing with China, for 19 years.