Wiggins Island keeps Gladstone a world leader in coal

By: Graham Gardiner

Gladstone's position as a world-leading coal port has been further enhanced with today's green light for the massive new Wiggins

Gladstone's position as a world-leading coal port has been further enhanced with today's green light for the massive new Wiggins Island Coal Terminal.

Acting Premier Paul Lucas, visiting the State's "port city" today, says the Coordinator-General has approved the environmental impact statement, subject to conditions, for the $3.5 billion Wiggins Island Coal Terminal.

"The project's proponent, the Central Queensland Port Authority, plans to build it in three stages. The first, valued at $1.3 billion to be completed by 2012. It has the potential to boost Gladstone's coal exports by up to a third, or 25 million tonnes, and generate up to $1.8 billion in export earnings annually," he says.

"Wiggins Island will greatly enhance Queensland's ability to get our number-one export across the seas to 33 potential markets.

"The three-stage terminal has been designed to cope with up to 84 million tonnes a year. More than 20 coal companies have already expressed interest in any extra capacity we can provide.

"Gladstone will be exporting up to 150 million tonnes a year when all three stages of Wiggins Island are complete."

Associated with this, this weekend the Department of Infrastructure and Planning starts the environmental investigation process for a $500 million rail upgrade - the Moura Link-Aldoga Rail Project - to transport coal to the new Wiggins Island Coal Terminal.

"It is another part of the Bligh Government's strategic plan for the coal industry which connects Gladstone to the Surat Basin Railway (Southern Missing Link) and key mining proposals like the Wandoan Coal Project," Lucas says.

"Today's news is exciting for the Gladstone, Central Queensland and State economies. It means jobs, jobs and more jobs.

"Just last month the Premier was in CQ announcing a study into expansion of Port Alma so that it could export an additional 30 million tonnes of coal per year.

"The Wiggins Island approval adds to recent achievements including; completion of the $116 million Abbot Point Terminal expansion (near Bowen) in November, committing a total of $46 million toward the Northern Missing Rail Link to Abbot Point, and another $103 million towards the RG Tanna Coal Terminal."

Lucas says the Central Queensland Ports Authority and Queensland Rail plan to spend $1.3 billion on Wiggins Island first stage, plus another $2.2 billion in later stages.

Stage one could take up to three years to complete and create up to 500 building jobs with 130 people required when operational.

The new terminal will include a trio of dump stations, underground conveyer systems and ship loaders, a 2km-long jetty with four dedicated coal ship berths and two general industry docks.

"New rail lines able to cope with both electric and diesel trains from the Blackwater mines and diesel trains from the Moura mines are also needed," Lucas says.

The Wiggins Island Coal Terminal will now go before the Commonwealth Government for final endorsement. Subject to resolution of environmental issues at the Federal level, construction could begin in early 2009.

From Saturday, the State Government will seek public comments on the associated Moura Link-Aldoga Rail Project - west of Gladstone and Calliope.

"A substantial upgrade to the area's rail system was originally part of the Wiggins Island Coal Terminal proposal," Lucas says.

"However, based on community concerns about additional coal trains Queensland Rail has outlined a new corridor to get coal to Gladstone Harbour.

"The proposal is to now build a new track for coal trains from the Moura Short Line west of Calliope, to the North Coast Line south-east of Mt Larcom.

"This proposed route will not increase coal train traffic in Gladstone, and it leaves the Byellee Wetlands untouched and removes the need for a Calliope River bridge.

"Plans include a new maintenance yard and locomotive provisioning facility near Aldoga and a doubling of track capacity - from two to four - on the North Coast Line between Aldoga and Wiggins Island."

The Coordinator-General declared Moura Link-Aldoga a significant project in September 2007, triggering a detailed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process.

"Once the terms of reference have been finalised, Queensland Rail will have to prepare a detailed EIS outlining the existing environment, the project's likely effect on it and their plans to minimise any negative impacts. People will have a chance to have their say on both the draft terms of reference and the EIS," Lucas says.

Around 350 jobs could be created during the two-year construction program with up to 550 permanent positions when the line is at full capacity.

The deadline for public submissions to the Coordinator-General on the Moura Link-Aldoga Rail Project is February 13.

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