Coal export threat to Corner Inlet

A RECENT report on ABC TV indicated that the State Government is currently considering 13 billion tonnes worth of new coal mining licenses across Gippsland.

This figure is the equivalent of 13 more mines the size of Hazelwood. The report also stated that the government has promised $90 million in handouts for new coal developments.

Environment Victoria has grave concerns about these developments and a member of the environment group said that the State government seems determined to utilise the brown coal in the Latrobe Valley.

“With falling electricity demand across the country coupled with a new wind farm being cheaper to build than a coal fired power stations, it seems there will be no new coal power stations built in the Latrobe Valley,” she said.

She added that with no future in the domestic market, the government now feels the only option for new investment is coal exports to overseas markets such as China and India.

Gippsland’s brown coal is inefficient, highly volatile and self-combusts, and to be exported needs to be dried to become more stable. Up until now, this has not been economically viable, but a range of new companies now claim that they have the technology to carry this out. At present, however, this technology does not address the problem of the required burning which would produce enough greenhouse gas emissions to devastate any hopes of stopping climate change.

Should these plans go ahead, the question of export locations becomes of utmost importance. At the moment the port most likely to be used for the first two million tonnes only is Geelong, while the necessary infrastructure is created to allow for a more direct route from the Latrobe Valley to a port in closer proximity.

In addition to McGaurans Beach (towards the southern end of the 90 Mile Beach), as mentioned on the ABC, other options believed to be under consideration include Hastings, which already has much of the necessary infrastructure in place, and Corner Inlet.

The coal industry is currently in favour of the development of a port at McGaurans Beach, despite requiring the building of a causeway or conveyor at least 4km in length out into the wild waters of Bass Strait.

The Foster Community Association recently hosted two representatives from Environment Victoria, who were here on a mission to learn about Corner Inlet, in light of a report that they had seen which identified Port Anthony (at Barry Beach) as a possible brown coal export facility.

A number of local people met with them, including a botanist, conservationist, geologist, migratory bird expert and health professionals and all agreed that the potentially devastating effects on Corner Inlet and its environmentally significant wetlands, commercial and recreational fishing, and human health, were simply unacceptable.

“In the government’s own report, they identified that containment of contaminated run off and spills from the site were significant risks,” said FAC spokesman Larry Giddy.

“We only have to look to what has happened in the Port of Gladstone in Queensland, where contamination is so bad that it has destroyed the commercial and recreational fishing industry for many kilometres, to know that we do not want to see the same destruction to Corner Inlet,” he added.

John Anthony, the Korumburra businessman behind the Port Anthony development, has stated that the port will be officially opened within the next four weeks, but declined to comment on what the port will be used for.

Environment Victoria is urging those with concerns for the future of our waters, lifestyle and health to visit its website at www.environmentvictoria.org.au for further information and to sign the online petition, which calls for an end to brown coal exports.


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