CLIVE Palmer’s Waratah Coal will become the first mining company in Australia to transport coal in covered wagons.
The company has proposed using wagons with fibreglass covers to transport loads from the China First Coal Mine in Central Queensland to the Abbot Point coal terminal in Bowen, north Queensland.
The tippler or gondola wagons use hydraulic jacks to open and close the wagon covers, which have been successfully used in the United States.
‘‘The covers not only protect the environmental values to which the rail alignment abuts but covering the wagons streamlines the train and makes it more fuel efficient and operationally superior to any other coal train system being proposed within the Galilee Basin,’’ Waratah Coal chief executive Nui Harris told the Newcastle Herald.
The company’s supplementary environmental impact statement for the project said that the coal wagon covers would not make coal transport less efficient.
‘‘It is essential that the application of the covers to rail coal wagons does not in any way add to the train cycle times or cause any delays to the trains either at the loading or unloading sites,’’ the report said. ‘‘Consequently the covers and handling equipment are designed as a system to match the speed of loading or unloading the coal trains.’’
The Herald is campaigning to have similar covers installed on trains operating along the Hunter’s coal corridor.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation last week published the results of a second round of coal wagon dust emissions conducted in the Hunter.
The tests, conducted at Raymond Terrace Drive in Metford from November 30, 2012 to January 2013, found loaded coal trains passing through the site did not have a stronger association with elevated particulate matter concentrations than other trains.
The Environment Protection Authority chairman and chief executive, Barry Buffier, said: ‘‘The EPA will not consider imposing additional requirements on industry, such as covering of coal loads, unless clear evidence becomes available which demonstrates the need for further studies or measures to control coal dust emissions from loaded coal trains."