COAL exports for 2017 through the Port of Newcastle appear to have fallen by less than one per cent on 2016, based on figures from the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator (HVCCC).
Also, coal-loader company Port Waratah Coal Services has had conditions of consent for its proposed T4 loader changed, allowing it to delay roadworks on Cormorant Road that were an original part of the project’s approval.
The HVCCC report shows that 159.9 million tonnes of coal were railed to the port in 2017, down from 161.1 million tonnes in 2016.
This amounts to a fall of about 0.75 per cent, but the decline was not spread evenly across the two coal-loading companies, Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) and Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group (NCIG).
PWCS saw its shipments fall from 109.6 million tonnes in 2016 to 104.7 million tonnes last year, a decline of almost 5.5 per cent.
In contrast, NCIG, which runs the newer loader on Kooragang Island, saw its throughput rise from 51.5 million tonnes in 2016 to 55.2 million tonnes last year, an increase of 7 per cent.
With Rio Tinto selling its Hunter Valley coal assets last year, management of PWCS has shifted from Rio to the Chinese-backed Yancoal, which bought the Rio assets, including its share in PWCS.
Read more: Environmental offsets agreed to for T4
PWCS chief executive Hennie du Plooy has stayed with the loader, shifting his employment to Yancoal.
Mr du Plooy said on Thursday that the Hunter industry had enjoyed a good year in 2017, with coal well ahead of where it had been a few years previously.
“Coal prices have increased in recent months and the global demand for coal remains steady for the foreseeable future,” Mr du Plooy said.
On the T4 changes, documents on display with the Department of Planning and Environment show the new timetable for road works was approved on December 6.
While PWCS is still obliged to carry out “priority works” of “biodiversity conservation and remediation” on the T4 site by September 2022, it is no longer required to do roadworks improvements under the same time frame.
The department agreed PWCS should not be required to complete these pre-construction works until it had decided to proceed with the project and “take up” the project approval.
Mr du Plooy said that as PWCS could move 145 million tonnes of coal a year through its Kooragang and Carrington terminals, it had more than 40 million tonnes – or 27 per cent – of spare capacity.