Posted by Vince Costantino on Sep 09, 2019
The Rotary Club of Pinjarra's latest new member, Brett Loney was introduced by Angela Knight.

Brett comes from a well established farming family, living on a farm close to Pingelly, around the Dryandra Woodland area. Brett's son is now a 9th generation West Australian, following the arrival of their forebears in Eastern Australia's 1850 goldrush and those of his mother in 1830 on the “Rockingham”.

His Grandfather started the farm after World War 1 and Brett's Grandmother and another lady were the only women in the area initially. Growing up in this rural community holds special memories, and Brett related a number of stories about a local favourite spot, Pumphreys Bridge on the Hotham River. This was a place where many children learned to swim and fish, and to get up to many of the "usual antics that children get up to".

Initially Brett worked as a geotechnical scientist, materials testing for the Main Roads Department after gaining a Diploma in Applied Science. He worked on the Mitchell Freeway extension as well as other projects in Moora and Kalgoorlie. Brett spent an interesting placement with the National Parks Authority as a field ecologist during his early work life, and later returning to do ground engineering works for the Public Works Department involved with the Burswood Casino and several other significant projects. A period spent rehabilitating borrow pits left abandoned following the Brand Highway construction that led Brett into studying environmental science with a rekindled passion for "leaving the Country as we found it".
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Mine Site Rehabiltation – 20 Years On – South of Menzies WA

In 1984, on completion of a degree in Environmental Science, Brett returned to Main Roads as an Environmental Officer. This work involved providing guidance on environmentally sensitive road construction and maintenance techniques and roadside management as well as producing environmental assessments of major projects such as the Forrest Highway extension and the widening of the Mitchell Freeway to accommodate the railway line to Joondalup.

Brett then moved into consulting and working directly in the mining industry from 1995 until the present time. His work included a period in Queensland working on Bauxite mining, and then a coal seam gas project. His work took (and still takes) Brett overseas, becoming involved with projects that developed mining and infrastructure in West and East Africa, as well as South East Asia. He worked with the governments of these nations, assessing the liabilities of such projects a the manufacture of  matches through to the rail systems through Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania (the old East African Railway).


Since 2013, Brett has spent some time in Myanmar working to develop procedural documents in support of Company's application to open a copper mine in the north of the Country. The Government was not fully aware of all the factors requiring to be considered, and the process took 18 months of revising parameters and subsequent submission of documents to finally get the licence. This process was contrasted to that proposed by the Government of China who planned a series of dams to generate hydroelectricity in the northern reaches of the Irrawaddy River. This project eventually failed to receive Myanmar Government approval after it was discovered that most of the power that was generated, was intended to be supplied to China. This area of Myanmar is particularly scenic and popular with tourists.  This (tourism) has become a means whereby the local people can earn a living by supplying the hospitality industry.

On the other hand, the area also has many tent villages set up to provide for internally displaced people following conflicts, or because of the economic development brought about by large scale development in the region. Brett has experienced projects where many thousands of people have had to be relocated for the projects.

Brett's work has involved preparing recommendations and comparisons for Government to consider the social effects caused to the civilians affected by these projects

Economic operations from projects involving mining, coal, gas, hydro-electric and solar/wind farms,  all cause some impact on people and the environment. Ninety per cent of Brett’s effort in his work involves people impacts and environmental impacts involves about 10%.

In West Australia, the very low population density means that a need for a "people impact" report does not receive much consideration.

Currently Brett is working on a mining in the African nation of Burkina Faso, which is the world's 3rd poorest country (by Gross Domestic Product- GDP). Most of the population exists in a subsistence living environment, mainly by herding cattle and growing rain-fed crops manually. The area of influence around the mine-site is approximately 50km square and incorporates many small villages. The water supply for the population is sourced mainly by wells, and the adjacent river some distance away from the villages. It is intended that water from a nearby major river will supply the project without influencing the flows to a dam for hydro electric generation. The poor quality of surface water means groundwater is used to provide water for the local people. The road systems within the project area have been upgraded, and sealed as they pass through the population centres, in order to minimise the dust thrown up by the passage of the mining vehicles.

Brett has a passion for cars (mainly yellow) and also enjoys cycling. He also first joined Rotary at the Rotary Club of Leeming following encouragement from an old acquaintance who was a member of the Melville Rotary Club and enjoyed his stay there.

He also had a passion for wildflowers and was on the Greening Australia Board which gave him a lot of satisfaction and currently serves on the Wildflower Society’s management committee. Brett still spends time driving around the bush during wildflower season to enjoy the diversity of flora with which WA is blessed.

Brett indicated he was happy to answer any questions, and when asked about coal-seam gas, he said the methods of extraction of the gas have various impacts on the environment. However, there is much controversy about this method of mining gas. Overseas there are locations subsiding due to the quantity of water removed for human consumption from the aquifers beneath them, so there are impacts from large scale depletion of groundwater from aquifers for any purpose. Some municipalities now collect storm water run-off in order to replenish the water removed from the aquifer.

Brett noted that in the early years, farmers left patches of bush in paddocks when the land was readied for wheat farming. However, later wholesale clearing with bulldozer and chains left nothing. Those areas could subsequently turn quickly to unfarmable salt-affected areas as a result of changes caused to the water table of the land through the loss of the vegetation.

Rotarian Steve Mewett thanked Brett for his talk, noting that it is always interesting to hear about the lives of our own members. Steve presented Brett with a wine glass as a memento of the occasion, and the meeting extended its thanks to Brett with a round of applause.