Palmer’s project takes flight

So apparently Clive Palmer is planning to revive the zeppelin as a mode of transport, more than 70 years after the Hindenburg disaster largely destroyed the reputations of these fabulous flying machines.

He has registered a company called Zeppelin International with two friends who are descendents of the aircraft’s pioneer, German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century, and plans to help bring the zeppelin into a new era.

“In the old days they used to fly from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro,” Palmer told reporters.

“They’ve still got the capability of doing that. What they had was the wrong sort of gas in them at that time, they had hydrogen which exploded… but prior to that they had been running thousands of miles, hundreds of thousands of miles, around the globe.”

“The basic technology is still very sound.”

We’re filing Clive’s zeppelin plan away in our “crazy stuff billionaires do” folder, but what is more interesting is the way Palmer’s $8 billion Queensland coal mine project is developing.

Yesterday, Palmer’s company Waratah Coal announced an agreement with central Queensland indigenous groups to protect the cultural heritage of the mine site and also announced that local contractors will get about 40% of the work on the mine, with the lead to be taken by the Chinese construction firms Palmer has already engaged.

While the news will grab headlines, Palmer argues the ratio is not exactly unusual in the mining sector.

However, the issue of jobs creation is one he is clearly going to use to get his project approved by the Queensland Government as quickly as possible.

“We’ll kick pretty hard and push pretty hard,” he said yesterday.

“There’s an election on next year and the Premier [Anna Bligh] wants to have 100,000 jobs – they’re not going to get it unless they get these projects going.”

“There’s no reason not to do it [but] Queensland does lead the world in the worst bureaucratic approval system.”

This project – and the sharemarket float that is expected to accompany it – is in some ways the big test for Clive Palmer.

The task of building a mine and accompany infrastructure is one fraught with complexities, cost and delays and many observers will be watching to see how process unfolds – and just how rich Clive really is.

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