Coal route criticised

MINING community advocate Jim Pearce has expressed outrage at a Hancock’s plans to transport up to 450,000 tonnes of thermal coal more than 400km by road from a bulk sample pit site near Alpha to a rail loading facility in Bluff.

Opened at the weekend by Hancock Prospecting, the 100,000-tonnes-a-year capacity test pit will be the first mine in the Galilee Basin region.

The test pit strategy is to satisfy potential buyers in five Asian countries that coal from the $7.5-billion mine will be suitable for their power stations.

From early 2011, over four months, 450,000 tonnes of thermal coal will be transported by truck down the Great Divide and through Emerald to Jellinbah Coal mine north of Blackwater, for washing, before being trucked to a rail loading facility near Bluff, then railed to the Abbot Point coal terminal near Gladstone.

“I just think it’s outrageous to carry that much coal for that distance,” Mr Pearce said.

“The roads are simply not built to withstand those tonnages that frequently.

“They are bound to be damaged.

“Then there are the road safety issues.

“I’ve had experiences with trucks carrying coal from Blackwater to Rockhampton.

“Most of the drivers are very good, but sometimes, often accidentally, they end up in a convoy situation and with hardly any overtaking lanes for long stretches of the Capricorn Highway, drivers get frustrated and make dangerous decisions.”

Mr Pearce said he didn’t agree with any sample amount of coal being transported by road.

“I doubt the company will put any money into repairing the roads when they get damaged. It’s just plain wrong,” he said.

A Hancock Coal spokesperson said a full road impact assessment report and comprehensive road use management plan had been prepared in consultation with the Department of Transport and Main Roads as well as the Barcaldine Regional Council.

“Effective planning and mitigation strategies are in place, and we will closely monitor environmental and safety performance including road conditions during this temporary operation,” the spokesperson said.

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