News Wrap

IN THIS morning’s News Wrap: Hunter Valley coal's annual health bill $600 million, say doctors; Japan strives to clean up, reprieve coal from climate pressure; and iron ore spot market a disaster, says former Rio executive.

Lou Caruana

Hunter Valley coal's annual health bill $600 million: doctors

The coal industry in the Hunter Valley could leave taxpayers with annual health bills running into the hundreds of millions of dollars and further mine expansion should be halted, a report released by 28 health groups says, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Coal and Health in the Hunter report by the Climate and Health Alliance estimates that burning coal for electricity in the valley alone produces health damage in the order of $600 million annually from the resulting air pollution, including the release of small particles.

The particulate matter from coal, measured in 2.5-10 millionths of a metre in diameter, “lodges into the linings of the blood vessels and causes inflammation and irritation, and leads to long-term cardio-vascular and lung disorders”, research fellow in epidemiology at the Australian National University Liz Hanna said.

Japan strives to clean up, reprieve coal from climate pressure

Australia's $16 billion in thermal coal exports could be protected from climate change pressures by ultra-low emission power stations that Japan's electricity industry is seeking to export through Asia, according to the Australian Financial Review.

On a tiny island in Japan's Inland Sea near Hiroshima, Osaki Coolgen Corp is building a $US900 million experimental high tech power station which turns coal into gas generating steam to drive turbines.

This leading edge technology has the potential to transform coal-based power, which has been slighted by critics but remains the major source of electric power for most of the world, especially developing economies.

Iron ore spot market a disaster, says former Rio executive

Former Rio Tinto executive Mal Randall said the iron ore spot pricing model has “been a disaster” and the major producers should consider returning to long-term benchmark contracts, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Randall, who spent more than 25 years at Rio Tinto and now chairs a mineral sands company, said former BHP Billiton boss Marius Kloppers should never have pushed to reform iron ore pricing in 2010.

“It was orchestrated and brought in by a guy that has no responsibility now, Kloppers who used to run BHP,” Randall said. “It's great to make these changes and then he's gone.”

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