The intentions of Chinese mining giant Shenhua to transport coal from Gunnedah to port Kembla has identified a massive problem with the Illawarra’s transport infrastructure, according to a South Coast Labour Council secretary.
Arthur Morris told the Illawarra Mercury yesterday the infrastructure issues in the region have finally been exposed as the NSW government has assigned departmental staff to assist the company to define ways to transport coal from its proposed mine near Gunnedah, through Sydney to the Port Kembla export terminal.
Shenhua, the world’s biggest coal mining company, and the Port Kembla port Corporation and government agencies are working together to find more potential mines in southern New South Wales, according to documents obtained by The Mercury.
It has been conducting exploratory drilling around Gunnedah and is looking to get final mining approval from the Government next year.
More mines in the region would make the possibility of using Port Kembla more likely.
The parties involved have discussed constructing 200km-300km of new rail line to access Port Kembla, including the Maldon-Dombarton line that is partially built.
Rorris said the missing portion between western Sydney and Port Kembla is the main issue.
"Regardless of one’s view about Chinese coal interests, it does point to one thing very clearly – and that’s how important critical parts of infrastructure are for our region, and for the expansion of the port," he said.
"I don’t think you can get a bigger wake-up call than that, as far as what this region needs. It needs to be done and done quickly."
The federal government is currently considering a feasibility study into the rail line and yesterday the NSW Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services would comment on any assistance given to the Chinese miner in southern NSW.
Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham has labelled the plan "ridiculous" and coal power should be phased out, not encouraged.
"We don’t want infrastructure in NSW being determined by Bejing and the world’s largest coal company," he said.
"Freighting coal all the way from Gunnedah to Port Kembla is a ridiculous concept that should be abandoned."
Once the coal reached Port Kembla, it would then be transported by ship to Indonesia and burned in a power station owned by Shenhua.
The miner missed the deadline for expansion of Newcastle’s coal terminal and is considering extra capacity proposed for Port Kembla, which has asked for expressions of interest in an expansion.
Image: Port Kembla Port Corporation