Barrier Reef before coal: QRC

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Resources Council plays down the impact of delay to the approval of a multi-billion dollar coal chain expansion to Abbot Point

Barrier Reef before coal: QRC
Barrier Reef before coal: QRC

By Anna Game-Lopata | March 16, 2012

Queensland Resources Council (QRC)
Chief Executive Michael Roche today joined the state's premier Anna Bligh in playing down the impact of delay to the approval of
a proposed multi-billion expansion to Abbot Point.

Approval for the Multi Cargo Facility (MCF)
develoment, which aims to facilitate a 15 percent growth in coal exports per year and be capable of handling 200 million tonnes by 2025, has been delayed twice already.

The original decision had been expected December 30, 2011, but was deferred to March 30, this year.

But Federal Minister for the Environment Tony Burke last week announced he wouldn’t make a final decision until December 31.

Michael Roche today
told SupplyChain Review
the delay was "not unexpected" given the need to ensure protection
the Great Barrier Reef.

"The coal industry’s focus is the certainty of the approvals process not outcomes," Roche says.
"First class environmental stewardship is not an optional extra for the Queensland resources sector.

"It is an essential input into project planning and development because if we fail the environment, we fail the people of Queensland, Australia and the world. The resources sector has as much equity in the sanctity of the reef as everyone else."

While Roche concedes it
would be
desirable for port developers to have certainty over the timing of federal approvals, he says there is still a great deal of work ahead, notably, the Abbot Point Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA).

"This initiative is possibly the first of its type in Australia where the proponents of a major project in one location are coming together to examine the cumulative impacts from all sides of the equation.

"That’s translating into 15 independent studies requiring close co-operation between North Queensland Bulk Ports (NQBP) and the three most advanced coal project proponents at Abbot Point– Adani, BHP Billiton and Hancock Coal."

To emphasise its commitment to the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef, a QRC delegation last week met with a UNESCO mission in Mackay to deliver the resources sector’s plan for "one the most comprehensive environmental investigations in the country’s history".

"It is vitally important that as the mission and Australian governments consider the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef that a fully-informed view of industry developments occurs," Roche says.

"Our social licence to operate – the unwritten contract between the people and our industries that often extends well beyond legislation and regulation – is critical to business success."

The coal industry’s studies into the proposed Abbot Point coal port expansion will be made available for public comment before submission to the Australian and Queensland Governments.

Driven by the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, the vision for the Port of Abbot Point is to become Northern Australia’s premier port.

At an expected overall cost in excess of $10 billion, or over $1 billion per year, planned upgrades including seven new terminals and the MCF would position Abbot Point as one of the world's largest coal ports with a capacity close to 300 million tonnes per annum.

The first terminal at Abbot Point, recently upgraded from a capacity of six million tonnes to 50 million tonnes of coal, has been sold to Indian company Adani for $1.83 billion.

Capacity for another two terminals, which could take between 30 million and 60 million tonnes each, has been allocated to BHP Billiton and Hancock Coal.

The Multi Cargo Facility involves construction of a protected harbour on land reclaimed from the sea suitable for a range of cargos – not just coal exports.

At approximately $1.25 billion, the first stage of the project, will require the dredging of up to 12 new berths, including a 10-berth tug base, a manoeuvring basin and an approach channel.

The dredge material will be used to reclaim land to the south west of the berth pockets to house MCF infrastructure.

The proposal also includes the construction of a haul road to facilitate port access and services corridor located to the south of the MCF.

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