Shenhua could expand into Illawarra

CHINESE mining giant Shenhua is being encouraged to develop another coal mine in the Illawarra or the southern highlands of New South Wales to justify exporting coal through Port Kembla after it missed a deadline to secure access at the Port of Newcastle.
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Lou Caruana

The company, which is awaiting approval for its Watermark mine in the Liverpool Plains in the northern part of the state, could end up railing thermal coal from the mine past Newcastle and Sydney to Port Kembla, under a plan being considered by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Shenhua would need to contribute funds to significant infrastructure upgrades, which would only be feasible if it had a second mine in the south.

The company has held talks with the state government, Port Kembla Corporation and NSW Industry and Investment representatives to canvass the options available to get its steaming coal to port and on to power stations back in China, according to documents obtained by the NSW Greens.

The University of Wollongong and the CSIRO are also preparing a study on the feasibility of linking the Gunnedah coal fields with Port Kembla.

The study is due next month, as the state struggles to develop adequate infrastructure to cope with the increasing amount of coal that will be exported over the coming decades.

Shenhua plans to mine 1 million tonnes per annum of coal from Watermark in 2013, up to 4Mtpa in 2014 and 7Mtpa by 2015.

Shenhua is working closely with NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner to approve the controversial $1 billion open cut coal mine despite resistance from local farmers.

Stoner allegedly contacted the Department of Regional Infrastructure arguing the case for Shenhua, saying the project was “state significant” and “of a high priority”, according to information obtained by the Greens in the NSW upper house.

In another email, consultants acting for Shenhua reminded NSW Director-General of Planning Sam Haddad of the financial commitments it had made to the state government, the local council and the Gunnedah community.

Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham has tabled 1000 documents that outlined exchanges between Shenhua and the Coalition.

In March Shenhua reported it was pleased with the progress of its Watermark application. “In Australia, work related to Watermark project, including the exploration, feasibility study and environmental assessment has made smooth progress,” it said.

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