The Port Waratah Coal Services Terminal 4 proposal is based on the tenuous presumption that the Hunter coal industry is a “growing” industry and that “bringing forward the mining and export of coal has a potential net production benefit to Australia” (Environmental Assessment 2012 pE.22). Various recent reports and government and financial forecasting contend otherwise.
The T4 proposal has the potential to either make or break the regional economy by way of locking the region into a coal future.
At the moment, the export of coal is not threatened – it’s the opportunity to capitalise on the accessible coal reserves that is driving the proposal. The proposal is in direct conflict with social, environmental, scientific and economic concerns about the ramifications of global warming in the first instance.
The Sydney Morning Herald “Old king coal gets knocked off its throne” (Paddy Manning SMH 28-29 April 2012 Weekend Business p9) reports that markets have “soured and the investment boom may be over for now”. Thermal coal is predicted to come under pressure in the medium to longer term with an expected fall in prices to as low as US$85 a tonne by 2015 and that the time for high investment returns is probably over. Oversupply of the resource will drive the prices further down (Paddy Manning SMH 5 March 2012 p5 “Coking coal piles up as prices simmer down”).
The Hunter Valley Coal Rail Network has planned to expand at a rate beyond the present capacity of coal exporting facilities at the Port (Draft Strategic Regional Land Use Policy 2012 p33). Port Waratah Coal Services has predicted that Port capacity will be reached by 2014.
The Port expansion is dependent on the availability of anticipated coal supplies, expansion of the industry and provision of a new terminal to capitalise on the aspirations of vested interest.
The proponents note that a combination of development of alternative energy or policy change could derail their predictions of production rates and export capacities (Environmental Assessment 2012 Scenario 3 p298).
It is acknowledged that Port related industry and infrastructure is vitally important to the region, State and Commonwealth – we need to get its planning and implementation right.
The proposal does not represent the best interests of the state – it represents the best interests of Port Waratah Coal Services at the expense of the regional and local Newcastle economy.
and more to come...