First new coal port in 25 years planned for Qld mines

By: Jason Whittaker

The Queensland Government is considering plans for a new $5.3 billion coal port between Rockhampton and Mackay to service coal

The Queensland Government is considering plans for a new $5.3 billion coal port between Rockhampton and Mackay to service coal boom-basins Bowen, the Galilee and Surat.

The proposal from Waratah Coal would be the first new coal mine built in Australia in a quarter of a century.

It’s one of three plans being considered by the Government to deliver a 40 percent coal export increase for the State.

Premier Anna Bligh says the plans are a "quantum leap" for Queensland’s coal industry.

"These projects could see this State fully harness the opportunities the resources boom can offer by delivering a 40 percent increase in our coal exporting capacity," she says.

The Waratah Coal proposal will see a new mine built near Alpha, with the potential to produce 25 million tonnes of terminal coal for export per annum.

The new port, to be built at Shoalwater Bay between Rockhampton and Mackay, will have a capacity of up to 100 million tonnes of coal per annum.

A new 500km rail line – reaching from the Galilee basin to the new port – would open the region to coal exports for the first time.

Defence Force land is being targeted for the project so that adjacent Byfield National Park will not be affected.

The State Opposition has already questioned the plan, which Opposition Leader Laurence Springborg calls a "shock announcement".

He says Port Alma, at the southern tip of the Fitzroy River downstream from Rockhampton, already handles significant shipments of fertiliser, explosives, salt, beef and scrap metal.

"It's midway between Rockhampton and Gladstone and right up till last week it was to be the new big port for Central Queensland," he says.

"Now, this morning, we hear from the Premier that her Government is planning a major new coal loader at Shoalwater Bay."

"I'm sure the people of Yeppoon will have something to say about this, as will anyone who's concerned about the sensitive environment around Byfield National Park."

The second proposal, the Bowen Basin Growth Project, consists of two new mines at Daunia and Caval Ridge and an expansion of the existing Gooyella Riverside Mine north of Moranbah.

The BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance proposal could boost coal exports in the area by about 20 million tonnes.

"Both these major coal mining proposals have been declared 'significant projects' by the Coordinator-General and will now undergo a rigorous environmental assessment process," Bligh says.

A third proposal – for a 30 million tonnes-a-year open cut coal mine near Wandoan by a consortium led Xstrata Coal – was declared a significant project in December last year.

"My Government is determined that this State should be in a position to take advantage of our abundance of natural resources," Bligh says. "That is why our work with industry, searching for clean coal solutions, is so important.

"Between State Government initiatives and private industry investment we have committed $900 million to develop clean coal technologies. The projects I have outlined today can make sure Queensland is ready to harness all the energy of a future of clean coal."

The Coordinator-General expects to release draft terms of reference for the environmental impact statements for the new proposals by late September.

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