The interim approval issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission allows the coal companies to engage in initial project negotiations for the infrastructure development without yet having full authorisation to proceed.
Cockatoo and Stanmore are seeking authorisation to collectively negotiate terms and conditions, including price, with the Surat Basin Rail joint venture for access to the Surat Basin rail line.
The proposed link would connect Queensland’s western rail system about 7km from Wondoan with the Moura system near Banana.
The rail system would connect Surat Basin coal mines to the export supply chain for the first time.
Both Cockatoo and Stanmore are participating in the expansion of the Port of Gladstone’s Wiggins Island terminal, which will provide export service to the Surat Basin rail line.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the interim decision allowed coal producers and Surat Basin Rail to accelerate current negotiations to secure rail capacity.
“This is likely to facilitate the timely construction of stage two of the Wiggins Island terminal and avoid any unnecessary delays in coal export growth,” he said.
A key reason coal reserves in the Surat Basin have historically not been mined has been the lack of access to rail and a suitable port.
Construction of the Surat Basin rail line is due to commence in 2012.