Australia’s coal bottlenecks ‘to cost billions’


Jun 17, 2008





AUSTRALIA will miss out on exports worth billions of dollars over the next decade because infrastructure in central Queensland will not keep pace with projected demand, according to coal tycoon Ken Talbot.

Mr Talbot, who owns 20 per cent of listed mining company Macarthur Coal, also told a Brisbane conference yesterday that the privatisation of the troubled port of Dalrymple Bay in central Queensland in 2002 had not worked and government and industry should buy it back.

Coal from the Bowen Basin in central Queensland is shipped through Abbott Point, Dalrymple Bay and Gladstone ports. All are being expanded following concerns about bottlenecks that have resulted in queues of up to 50 ships waiting off Dalrymple Bay, which is owned by investment giant Babcock and Brown.

“But even with those port upgradings, it will be 2010 before all those ports are working at their upgraded level, and that makes the current 10 years the decade of lost opportunity,” Mr Talbot said yesterday.

It’s the first time that our coal customers haven’t been able to get supplies from Queensland, and even with the upgraded capacity coming together, there’s every sign that we’ll be short of capacity after 2010, as well.”

Mr Talbot said that despite the mining of coal being under political pressure because of concern about greenhouse gases, he still expected demand for Australian coal to remain strong over at least the next 20 years.

In 2005, Mr Talbot called for an infrastructure plan for the Bowen Basin including upgrades for the three coal ports and a better integrated rail network.

Yesterday, he said that although this had largely happened or was in the process of being constructed, there needed to be a 20-year plan so that capacity ran well ahead of projected demand. “We need to keep an open mind on how to build up capacity, whether there needs to be new ports completely or we follow some of the overseas trends and start loading coal out at sea,” he said.

“There’s land in central Queensland that could be used for ports. The army land at Shoalwater Bay — there’s no reason why that’s sacrosanct, why we couldn’t look at using that as a coal port.”


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