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ARTC updates coal chain progress

THE Australian Rail Track Corporation will boost consultation with producers as it expects coal tonnages to more than double from the Ulan and Gunnedah rail lines in the Hunter Valley coal chain by 2012.

Blair Price
ARTC updates coal chain progress

Bolstered by $A580 million of federal infrastructure funding specifically for the Hunter Valley region, ARTC is roughly two-thirds through its bag of Newcastle-to-Muswellbrook rail projects planned to 2013.

The government-owned company has completed about one-third of its Muswellbrook-to-Ulan projects and is halfway through its Muswellbrook-to-Narrabri rail project pipeline.

In a presentation to the New South Wales Mineral Exploration & Investment Conference on Friday, ARTC general manager Denise McMillan said a key flaw in the historical structure of the Hunter Valley had been a lack of congruence between commercial investment and capacity outcomes.

Alongside the recent progress made by the state government and Hunter coal industry in developing a long-term solution to managing the coal chain’s exports, McMillan revealed ARTC’s efforts.

As part of its underlying strategy, she said ARTC was working to identify and confirm industry forward demand.

She said ARTC would also model whole-of-chain impacts to identify the most efficient investments to boost capacity.

“Producers are the key investors and risk takers,” McMillan said.

“They must play a strong role in forward decision-making of investments.”

Looking at future growth to be handled via rail, ARTC is expecting Ulan line tonnages to lift from 4.8 million tonnes domestic and 14.7Mt export in 2009 to 8Mt domestic and 40.6Mt export in 2012.

Production in the Gunnedah Basin is also tipped to expand, lifting from 4.9Mt in 2009 to 14.8Mt in 2012.

Overall, ARTC is expecting 164Mt of coal to be handled from the Hunter Valley to Newcastle port in 2012, compared to its 2009 estimate of 93Mt.

In an update on development at the port, McMillan said financial commitments for the second phase development of Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group’s new terminal, which is under construction, were still under review.

The second phase will lift capacity to 66Mt, compared to the 30Mt capacity of phase one due for completion in March.

McMillan said full capacity of 113Mt was expected to be achieved from Port Waratah Coal Services this quarter, with 88Mt through Kooragang and 25Mt through the Carrington terminals.

She said there was potential for further “footprint” expansion to lift PWCS’s capacity to 122Mt, and also potential for another expansion to 145Mt, which would be subject to development approvals.

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