Anglo quits coal terminal expansion in Australia

Anglo quits coal terminal expansion in Australia

Digital rendition of the expanded Abbot Point coal port.

Anglo American (LON:AAL) won’t take part in an expansion project for one of the main coal export terminals in Queensland, Australia, joining this way mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, which also quit the venture as fossil fuel prices remain weak.

The withdrawal, reports The Australian, leaves India's GVK Group and Adani as the only two groups considering port expansions in the region, as they have plans to ship power station coal from a few different projects in the Galilee Basin at a total cost of roughly $17 billion.

Anglo said, however, it is studying alternative ports in the region that might not need a hefty investment and the construction of railroads, as it is the case of Abbot Point.

Coal port projects and expansions have been a source of controversy in the last two years, with academics and environmental groups raising the issue of “irreparable damage” to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

In 2012 UNESCO, the UN educational, scientific and cultural arm, sent an inspection team to the area, finding “a continuing decline in the quality of some parts” of the reef.  However, the Queensland Resources Council was quick to snub the report.

Last year more than 150 marine scientists from 33 institutions signed a letter warning Australian authorities of the mounting threats new coal ports and other industrial projects pose to the reef’s habitat.

The Great Barrier Reef authority responded by approving last month a permit for the state-owned coal terminal operator to dump as much as 3 million cubic meters of dredged sediment inside the park.

When and if finished, the Abbot Point coal port —located 25 kilometres north of Bowen, at the northern end of the Galilee and Bowen coal basins— will service among others the Alpha Coal project owned by Australia's richest woman Gina Rinehart. Her mine will be built to ship 60 million tonnes of thermal coal through the terminal.

Image courtesy of Waratah Coal Pty Ltd.