$2.5 billion port expansion

A group of 14 of Australia's largest mining firms has proposed a privately funded $2.5 billion expansion of the Port of Newcastle, which the New South Wales Government is examining to make sure it is not anti-competitive.

A group of 14 of Australia’s largest mining firms has proposed a privately funded $2.5 billion expansion of the Port of Newcastle, which the New South Wales Government is examining to make sure it is not anti-competitive.

Ports Minister Joe Tripodi says he wants to examine whether the expansion would allow for new companies to enter the market, but he thinks it is a good idea for the industry to fund its own needs.

“What a lot of people do not understand is just about all of the logistics chain or the supply chain for coal into Hunter Valley is privately-owned and operated,” he said.

“Therefore, when there are actual bottlenecks in that capacity it flows from decisions in the past about how much to invest in infrastructure. Private sector decisions.”

NSW Premier Morris Iemma says the Government will not stop a privately-funded expansion of Newcastle’s port as long as it does not break competition laws.

Iemma says the State Government has upheld its end of the bargain at Newcastle port, but the privately-controlled loading facilities are still causing bottlenecks.

“The infrastructure that we own that is our responsibility to invest in, we have done so,” he said.

“The port has massive capacity. The loading facilities that are owned by the industry, that’s their responsibility, it’s for them to come to an arrangement that will work and will not break the competition laws that are regulated at a national level.”

The companies said to be funding the project, including BHB Billiton, Rio Tinto’s Coal and Allied and Xstrata coal, have joined forces in an attempt to double the capacity of the port, which suffers from chronic bottlenecks rising from the surge in demand for coal.

The report comes after the Minerals Council of Australia published research showing Australia’s mining sector will require an extra 86,000 workers over the next 12 years if it is to remain a global leader.

NSW minister for ports Joe Tripodi says the government aims to review the proposal as quickly as possible.

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