The Gladstone terminal has always been a problem and needs to be changed, and the draft decision – if it is adopted – will have minimal impact on coal companies, they said.
“Essentially, it’s a formal review of a long-standing agreement to move a small volume of coal exports from an old, dusty coal terminal to the new, state-of-the-art coal terminal once the new one is up and running,” one industry figure said.
“This draft decision is not a surprise and there should be no impact on exports, developments or coal companies. It will just mean that the same coal will get loaded from a different wharf in the future and that wharf will be further from the public.”
The ACCC’s draft decision authorises arrangements to reallocate specified amounts of capacity from Barney Point Coal Terminal at the Port of Gladstone in central Queensland to either the RG Tanna Coal Terminal or a new terminal to be constructed at the port.
The Gladstone community has raised concerns about coal dust and noise pollution passing from Barney Point to residential areas. In 2007, Gladstone Ports Corporation publicly undertook to cease export of coal from Barney Point and reduce the quantity of coal dust likely to affect residents.
The residents reached an agreement with the Queensland government that would entail a consortium of coal producers constructing a new export terminal at the port.
The new terminal, Wiggins Island, would be operated by GPC and would export coal, including that formerly exported from Barney Point, while producing fewer coal dust emissions per million tonnes of coal processed at the terminal each year.
Wiggins Island would also be located further away and predominantly downwind so coal dust would be less likely to affect the city of Gladstone.
"The ACCC considers the proposed arrangements are likely to provide environmental benefits and may also avoid delays in infrastructure investment, new coal export capacity and job growth in central Queensland," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.
"The ACCC notes that the arrangements apply to a relatively small quantity of tonnage capacity and Wiggins Island is expected to have much greater capacity than Barney Point currently has.
“The transfer of coal operations between Barney Point and Wiggins Island will not disrupt coal exports from the port because Barney Point will not be closed until Wiggins Island is operational."