The South West Users Group – comprising coal companies New Hope Group, Yancoal Australia and supply chain service providers Aurizon, Queensland Rail and Queensland Bulk Handling – commissioned the 12-month extension of live monitoring at Cannon Hill.
The South West System is the smallest coal supply chain in Australia, hauling 8.9 million tonnes per annum, with plans for incremental growth. The supply chain begins at the Surat and Moreton
Basin coal fields west of Toowoomba and runs through Toowoomba, Ipswich and Brisbane to the Port of Brisbane.
The group launched its Coal Dust Management Plan in November 2013 to “dispel misinformation that may lead to community concerns”, pointing out that there were low levels of coal in corridor dust samples.
Case studies and dust monitoring reports referenced in the plan showed that coal dust typically accounted for about 10% of deposited dust samples on a surface area basis at the monitoring sites.
Meanwhile, samples taken from homes adjacent to the rail corridor showed that black tyre rubber, rocks, soil and minerals, plant and insect debris made up most of the dust.
Queensland Resources Council CEO Michael Roche said communities adjacent to the rail corridor could continue to make up their own minds whether air quality was a genuine issue or a political opportunity for anti-coal industry activists.
“Cannon Hill’s air quality has been published in near real time on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s website since March 2014, complemented by data from dust deposition stations at Cannon Hill, Fairfield and Toowoomba,” Roche said.
“What has become crystal clear from the start of independent monitoring and reporting in 2013 is that air quality adjacent to the southwest rail corridor falls well within state government targets and Australian standards.
“After publication of a peer-reviewed investigation by air quality specialists from the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts (DSITIA), Queensland Health concluded that ‘for people living along the corridor, the dust concentrations measured during the (2013) investigation are unlikely to result in any additional adverse health effects’.”
All coal mines exporting through the Port of Brisbane voluntarily introduced polymer veneering and ‘garden bed’ profiling to reduce dust from coal wagons in 2013.
The veneering solution is an environmentally friendly, water-based mixture sprayed on top of coal loaded onto rail wagons. It dries to form a flexible crust over the coal, physically inhibiting dust.
Roche said the South West Users’ Group took its environmental obligations seriously and through its 2013 Coal Dust Management Plan had committed to keeping communities adjacent to the rail corridor and their elected representatives fully informed.
“The latest dust suppression initiatives by Queensland Bulk Handling at the Port of Brisbane are another indicator of industry’s ongoing commitment to environmental improvement to the benefit of communities along the coal supply chain.
“Industry has nothing to hide and is happy to be judged on its performance.”