BHP dumps plans to develop T2 at Abbot Point

BHP Billiton has formally withdrawn from being the preferred developer of Terminal 2 at the Port of Abbot Point as the company also confirms it has pulled out of building a rail line linking the port with Bowen Basin mines.

BHP had planned to build terminal two of the proposed Abbot Point expansion as well as a rail line in a project worth $5 billion.

The company hinted in 2012 that it planned to cease work on growth studies in Queensland, including rail and port work associated with the port expansion as well as scrapping a rail project from Goonyella to Abbot Point.

However a formal relinquishment of the right to develop T2 has now been agreed with North Queensland Bulk Ports and the company has withdrawn from related regulatory applications

While Adani and GVK Hancock still hold the development rights for Terminal 0 and Terminal 3 respectively, the announcement of withdrawal by BHP as preferred developer for T2 has cast doubt over the expansion of the port.

The project is still waiting on final Federal approval for its go ahead, with Environment Minister Greg Hunt last week pushing the decision back to December 13.

NQBP said it would continue to review how to “best cater for staged and timely incremental expansion of port and terminal capacity” incorporating the development of the T2 site.

“The advancement of the site is fundamental in catering for future incremental coal export growth at Abbot Point,” the company said.

In April 2012 BHP reaffirmed its commitment to the expansion at Abbot Point after Rio Tinto decided to pull out of the development.

However in October of the same year the company’s former head ruled out any new mining projects in the state.

“What is extraordinarily difficult is to open up brand new greenfield mines, ports, rail and so on,” Marius Kloppers said at the time.

It is understood the company expects it has sufficient latent port capacity to see it through until at least 2024.

Whitehaven awards Leighton rail contract

Whitehaven Coal has awarded Leighton Contractors its infrastructure construction contract.

The contract will see Leighton build the rail loop for its Maules Creek coal mine.

"The rail loop is a key part of the mine infrastructure and the longest lead time item for the project," Whitehaven said in a statement.

Paul Flynn, Whitehaven's CEO, said "this is a very important milestone for Whitehaven's Maules Creek project; once the mine begins production in the first quarter of CY 2015 it will strengthen the company's position as a major low cost coal producer".

The Maules Creek project has seen opposition for the local community.

TasRail sign deal to transport Venture’s iron ore

TasRail has inked a deal which will see it transport iron ore from Venture Minerals Riley Creek Mine in Tasmania’s Tarkine region.
The announcement comes after a court challenge by environmentalists to halt mine’s development was dismissed last week.
Venture Minerals said it expects to begin work at the site in coming weeks.

TasRail will provide train services on the existing Melba Line, transporting ore through to the Burnie Port where the company will store it and provide ship loading services.

TasRail chief Damien White said the deal represents development opportunities for both companies.

“TasRail is the operator of critical economic freight infrastructure in Tasmania that is an enabler for existing and new major industries, and is well placed to provide high tonnage base load haulage for new mines,” White said.

“As TasRail owns and operates Tasmania’s only open access bulk ship loader facility at Burnie, the capacity to provide a vertically integrated bulk service for Venture, and support the development og jobs in the North-West region of Tasmania is a win-win.”

Tasmania’s Resources Minister Bryan Green has previously said the mine will contribute $40 million a year to the state’s economy.

The project is set to employ 60 people and run for two years.

Asbestos fears over Rio railway line

A council in Western Australia’s Pilbara region has expressed concern over Rio Tinto’s plan to build a railway line near the asbestos-ridden ghost town of Wittenoom.

As part of Rio’s proposed Koodaideri iron ore mine, the company have submitted documents for a 167 km railway line to be built which would connect to the company’s Dampier-Tom Price line.

While the track would avoid the former town, Rio plan to construct part of the track through the wider Wittenoom asbestos management areas, The West Australian reported.

The Shire of Ashburton is concerned workers could be at risk to exposure, calling for indemnity from litigation if the track goes ahead.

According to documents filed by Rio, the $3.5 billion project is expected to produce 35 million tonnes of ore a year, before a ramp up by 2030 which will see that figure increase to 70 million tonnes a year

New roads, power sources, water infrastructure and FIFO village facilities would also be need to be constructed.

The Environment Protection Authority is currently assessing the project before making a recommendation to the Minister for Environment Albert Jacob.

If Rio choose to pursue the project construction is expected to begin in the second half of 2014 before first production in 2016.

QR boosts intermodal by $200 million

Transport and logistics company QR has announced plans to inject $200 million into its intermodal business for new rolling stock and freight terminal upgrade projects.

The investment is expected to further expand the company’s involvement in the $1 billion general freight market, which has been boosted by the start of its services from Melbourne to Perth last November.

Speaking at a rail infrastructure conference in Sydney, QR chief executive officer Lance Hockridge said the Queensland Government has approved the expenditure.

“This investment underlines QR’s commitment to the national intermodal market and our ambition to expand the business over time to leverage off the growth opportunities,” he said.

Mr Hockridge said the $200 million project includes the purchase of 18 new locomotives and 488 wagons, and the upgrade of the terminals at Perth’s Forrestfield and Dry Creek in Adelaide.

The company’s executive general manager freight Stephen Cantwell said general freight volumes between capital cities were projected to double between 2000 and 2020 due to rail’s relatively low carbon emissions and rising costs for road transport.

Mr Cantwell said the upgrade project would improve QR’s cost competitiveness by enhancing fuel efficiency and reliability and provide the company with the capacity to increase volumes and realise economies of scale.

The company plans to call tenders for the new rolling stock next month, which will be used to update its fleet by 2010.

Road cannot do it, but rail can: ARTC

The Australian Government should spend more money on upgrading the rail infrastructure between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has said.

ARTC CEO David Marchant, speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, said Australia would become incapable of providing sustainable freight services without dedicated rail freight lines to and from capital cities. 

Mr Marchant, who has been lobbying the Australian Government to provide a further $830 million on the rail upgrade projects in northern Sydney, said in stark contrast to the investment in making road transport more productive and efficient, the freight rail transport system has been progressively run down.

As a result, rail’s share of freight movement between capital cities of Melbourne to Sydney and Brisbane plunged from 50 per cent to less than 12 per cent over the last four decades, while the volume of freight increasing almost 17 times.

With freight demand continuing to increase, he said under-utilisation of rail is not viable also in light of the volatility in oil prices and meeting the carbon emissions target.

He refuted the recently publicised plan to construct an inland railway linking Melbourne to Brisbane, saying it would have no impact on the freight movement to and from Sydney, at the core of Australia’s logistics operations.

He said the rail corridors between Melbourne and Sydney, and Brisbane were “most depleted in performance over the last 30 years” and the ARTC, partially funded by the Australian Government, commenced a major program of improving the infrastructure. 

He also expressed high hopes for the southern Sydney freight line, with its completion targeted for January 2010.

“This line will separate freight from the urban passenger system in Sydney from Chullora to Macarthur.

“It will overcome the curfew on freight movements in the southern metropolitan area…and will be connected to the freight line from Chullora to Sydney Ports which will also be separated from the urban passenger system,” he said. 

The ailing rail system could overcome decades of neglect through AusLink, Infrastructure Australia and the government’s stimulus package, he said.

“There’s an ad running on US television at the moment extolling the virtues of rail over road. I’ve converted from imperial to metric the figures used in the ad.

“Consider this: a tonne of freight can be carried 680 kilometres using just 3.7 litres of fuel. Road can’t do that. Rail can.

“These are not issues that can be solved tomorrow; however, the road map for the adjustment needs to be commenced today,” Mr Marchant said.

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