The approval of an expansion at Abbot Point, and the opening of a new terminal at Hay Point this week are two rare pieces of good news for the Australian coal sector.
Federal minister for the environment Greg Hunt this week approved the development of an expansion at Abbot Point in North Queensland.
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the approval was an important step in the creation of thousands of jobs.
“This environmental approval with strict conditions, which follows on an extensive consultation process, paves the way for the construction of a second terminal at Abbot Point for exports to a coal-hungry India,” Roche said.
“The conditions also align with the Reef2050 plan that ensures protection of the iconic Great Barrier Reef.
“Abbot Point is the designated port option for the Galilee Basin projects, and the new coal terminal will service Adani’s Carmichael mine, which is around 400km from the coast.”
The approval was also welcomed by Greg Evans, executive director for coal at the Minerals Council of Australia.
“[Approval of the] Abbot Growth Gateway Project is welcomed and [is] another important step in the proposed development of the coal resources in the Galilee Basin,” Evans said.
The project entails dredging, onshore placement and reuse of dredged material at Abbot Point.
“Anti-coal activists should respect the decision made as part of the approval process,” Evans added.
The approval comes at a time when the coal sector is facing a prolonged, and significant downturn. Market prices are at long-time lows, and some analysts have questioned the viability of long-term demand forecasts.
But Evans is confident the Abbot Point expansion will be valid.
“The demand for Australian coal remains strong with the IEA expecting our coal exports to Asia increasing by 37% to 2040 underpinning economic expansion in the region,” he said.
Also bucking the coal trend, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) on December 16 opened a third berth at the Hay Point Coal Terminal, also in Queensland.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk welcomed the move, noting Queensland coal exports reached a new record in the last financial year of more than 219 million tonnes.
“I want to thank BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi for their confidence in the Queensland coal export market,” Palaszczuk said.
The new berth expands the port’s coal export capacity from 44mtpa to 55mtpa.