T4 coal loader at Newcastle gains environmental approval

The T4 coal loader on Kooragang Island is a step closer to reality after being approved by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.

Port Waratah Coal Service's long-awaited loader is set to increase export capacity at Newcastle by 70 million tonnes and the project will now head to the Planning Assessment Commission for an independent review.

Now that the project has been referred to PAC, a further 28 days of public exhibition are expected, including the opportunity for individuals and organisations to provide written submissions and presentations through public hearings.

PWCS CEO Hennie du Plooy said the approval and assessment process for the project was nearing the four year mark.

“We look forward to this next step and the opportunity for an independent review of the proposal and assessment thus far,” du Plooy said.

“Projects of this scale require long lead times for approval and construction. Approval of this project now will position the Hunter Valley coal industry for opportunities that might arise in the future.

“By having a Terminal 4 master plan in place, certainty is created for the industry, businesses, community and government around what will happen on the site.”

The loader has been a contentious issue for Newcastle, drawing criticism from environmental groups, particularly over its dust management claims.

The Hunter Community Environment Centre said it plans to have its case heard at PAC, Newcastle Herald reported.

‘‘The community feels the marginal economic return isn’t worth the costs to public health and our environment,’’ spokesman John McKenzie said.

‘‘T4 is a project whose benefits were overstated from the beginning.’’

The project will be subject to strict environmental conditions aimed at mitigating potential air quality impacts.

PWCS spokesman Mark Baker said state-of-the-art technology would be used to comply with the conditions.

‘‘Weather monitoring systems will be used to minimise dust,’’ Baker said.

The company will also create an on-site green and golden bell frog corridor and biodiversity offsets comprising of 851 hectares.

“We understand that dust is a concern for the Newcastle community, and communities around Australia. We also know that NSW has some of the strictest air quality standards in the world and Port Waratah complies with these standards as measured by the recognised and approved methods,” du Plooy said.

Plans to build the T4 loader begun in 2011, when it was identified that more capacity at Newcastle was required to meet future demand.

PWCS says that at peak construction of the T4 Project, the Hunter will be experiencing an injection of $770 million per annum, with over 2,900 direct and indirect jobs.

It says that once the loader is full built it will create over $400 million in business turnover for the local economy.

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