T4 milestone

THE New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission has outlined the environmental hurdles left to gain approval for Port Waratah Coal Services’ Terminal 4 project.
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Courtesy PWCS.

Blair Price

These include measures to protect the migratory bird-hosting Tomago wetland on Kooragang Island, redesigning proposed T4 coal pads to better shield “high biodiversity value ponds” and remediating existing “contamination” on the island as soon as practicable.

“The current uncertainties surrounding the timing and funding of the remediation works on the site need to be resolved between the proponent, the Environment Protection Authority and the Hunter Development Corporation (the current owner of part of the site) before the final proposal is referred to the decision maker,” PAC said.

PWCS said the PAC commented on a range of issues including some that “also apply to the broader industry and the long-term development of the Port of Newcastle”

“We are pleased that we have reached another critical milestone in an assessment process which has taken four years so far,” PWCS CEO Hennie du Plooy said.

“To keep the process moving forward, we will aim to provide a response to the Department of Planning and Environment as promptly as possible, giving careful consideration to the recommendations and how they apply to the Project scope.

“Despite challenging conditions, the Hunter Valley coal industry in 2014 is once again on track to increase output to record levels, reinforcing the need to continue planning for the future growth of coal exports from Newcastle.”

Citing analysis it received from the Centre for International Economics, PAC said T4 will not likely be required by the state’s coal industry before 2023 based on current contract volumes.

This also factors in PWCS’ move to reduce the T4 export capacity scope from 120 million tonnes per annum to 70Mtpa.

“However, even at this reduced capacity, the need and timing of the project are uncertain,” PAC said.

“The Port of Newcastle currently has capacity to export 211mtpa of coal and with the addition of the T4 terminal this capacity would increase to 281mtpa. In 2013, 150mtpa was exported through the port.”

PAC also stressed any consent to develop T4 should be “activated” within a five-year period despite the 10-year consent period that was requested.