Margaret Howes, Empire Vale
Wow! That’s a lot of coal and it’s got to get to somewhere if it’s not going to stay in the ground!
The Chinese government’s development arm, Shenhua Watermark Coal, currently has a state significant development on exhibition with submissions to close on April 28.
This new Chinese open cut coal mine, which was awarded its exploration licence at a fee of $300 million by Eddie Obeid’s mate Ian McDonald, will cover 126sq kilometres between Breeza, just south of Gunnedah, and Lake Goran. The plan is to extract 10 million tonnes of coal per year for shipment to China with the development to continue for 30 years.
The plan is to transport coal to Newcastle, but the environmental impact statement says the scope boundary of the DA is limited to Muswellbrook. There will be eight trains a day with 72 wagons loaded with coal.
Already coal trains are disrupting road traffic, and these trains will close the railway level crossings for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. What if there is a medical emergency? How does the ambulance pass the obstruction?
Now let’s look at the alternative route. Articles were published in the Daily Examiner and Northern Star almost exactly a year ago to the day. These articles were about a new railway line proposed for Moree – Glen Innes – Inverell – Grafton – Harwood Island with a new rail link south to Gunnedah. The newspapers were putting up a plan to turn the Clarence into the Port of Yamba but at the time there was only agricultural produce and bauxite for freight. Now, all of a sudden, there is this big new customer for the railways, one with an unlimited budget.
Who will build the railway, and who will build the shipping port on the Clarence River? Will it be the Chinese, Malays or Indians?
A year ago Mayor Richie Williamson remarked ‘they’re dreaming’. I believe he has now given a letter of support.
Times change and so will our lives if a new coal port is developed on our doorstep.