The Terminal 4 Project is a proposal for a fourth coal export terminal to be located on Kooragang Island in the Port of Newcastle. Here's why we are campaigning against its approval.

The terminal would have a capacity to export up to 70 million tonnes of coal per annum (mtpa) and includes rail and coal receival infrastructure; coal stockpile pads and associated machinery; and other associated infrastructure. The proponent for the project is Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) which is a joint venture between a number of coal producers and other coal industry participants, including exporters and importers – the major shareholder of PWCS is Rio Tinto. PWCS owns and operates two coal terminals in the Port of Newcastle – the Carrington Coal terminal adjacent to Tighes Hill and Mayfield East residential areas and the Kooragang terminal on Kooragang Island.


Here's 11 reasons why this proposal is a disaster for Newcastle and the Hunter:

    1. Global warming: T4 is a climate change accelerator. The burning of an additional 70Mt of coal a year will add 174.2Mt of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. That is substantially more climate pollution than is produced from every power station, vehicle, mine and industrial process in New South Wales each year, and about a third of Australia’s total emissions.

    2. The Hunter Estuary: The proposed T4 site is part of the globally important Hunter Estuary, and shares a border with the Hunter Wetlands National Park. It is widely regarded as the single most significant site for migratory shorebirds in New South Wales, among the top ten in Australia, and was internationally recognised via its listing under the Ramsar Convention in 1984. Twenty-one threatened species are known to use the site, along with 112 species of waterbirds and nationally and internationally listed threatened species, including the Australasian bittern. These wetlands would be destroyed, and replaced with uncovered coal stockpiles.

    3. Offsets: To offset the damage to the site, PWCS propose to set aside land at Brundee (near Nowra) and Ellalong Lagoon. These sites do nothing to offset impacts on species occurring in the Hunter Estuary and only serves to further threaten the species at risk. The proposed Ellalong Lagoon offset area is in Cessnock - 40km from the coast! It will do nothing to offset the impacts on migratory shorebirds. The proposed Brundee offset area is no better – it’s 250km from the area destroyed. How could this land possibly protect the biodiversity in the Hunter estuary or offset impacts on them?

    4. Misuse of public conservation lands: Swan Pond is public land, owned and managed by the National Parks Service under Part 11 of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act. It is part of a highly successful long-term restoration project, the Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project (KWRP) and has been the site of significant hours of volunteer labour by the local bird watching club. Turning this into a coal terminal is a breach of the public trust.

    5. Mining Expansion in the Hunter Valley: T4 would mean blasting out at least eight large new or expanded open-cut coalmines in the Hunter Valley, Gunnedah Basin and beyond. This means more controversial new mines like those being pushed at Maules Creek, Denman, Gloucester and Wallarah, and more expansions like the one threatening to ruin Bulga. These mines come at a cost – destroyed remnant bushland, devoured agricultural land, depleted, salinated and acidified aquifers, and dislocated communities.

    6. Air quality: Newcastle and the Hunter Valley communities are impacted by dust from the mining, transport and stockpiling of coal. An additional 70Mt of coal exported will mean about an additional 7,000 trips of 80 wagon trains between the Hunter mines and the port and back again per year, and four new coal stockpiles will substantially add to dangerous particulate pollution in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. This means more of the intolerable noise, vibration, diesel and dust for the people living alongside the rail line or near the port.

    7. Impacts on community health: Particulate pollution in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley frequently breaches World Health Organisation recommended levels. The community already lives with levels of pollution in the air that are injurious to our health, even without the additional burden of the fourth terminal. Despite the repeated insistence of NSW Health and the residents of the impacted suburbs, PWCS have stubbornly refused to conduct a health impact assessment that would properly assess the risks of T4, particularly to vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with chronic disease. If we don’t know what the impacts will be, how can we let it go ahead?

    8. Justification for the project: There is no justification for the project. PWCS has not committed to building T4, and only intends to secure planning approval for the occurance that global coal demand turns around. In the 2012/13 peak of the coal boom, the Newcastle port exported approximately 150 Mtpa, well beneath the 211 Mt of already approved capacity. With 60 Mtpa or 29% spare capacity on the existing coal port and demand for Australian coal flatlining, there is no current commercial justification for a further 30% capacity expansion with T4. The Review PAC found that T4 is not likely to be required prior to 2023, based on forward estimates.

    9. Employment: The original 120 Mt proposal offered no additional employment. Then the revised T4 project reduced export capacity to 70 Mt million, but stated that the project would now employ 80 additional people. How is this possible? This dubious additional employment is not explained. Even if these jobs do eventuate, they are neither secure no safe. T4 is located on the site of a cancer cluster – workers at the existing coal terminal T3 were up to three times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the general population. Hunter health professionals advise us that a fourth terminal cannot be considered while the causes of this cancer cluster are unknown.

    10. Economic Diversification: The T4 proposal locks up precious and limited portside land in Newcastle’s port. As the world’s largest coal port, the portside access for coal exports is already over-subscribed. The heavy reliance of the Port on coal exports may give rise to unique diversification risks, and represents an opportunity cost for other industries that could use this land for alternative proposals.

    11. Contamination: The T4 site has been used as a toxic dumping site for Newcastle industries for decades, resulting in a legacy of heavy metals, hydrocarbons, BTEX chemicals, asbestos and other contaminants. There are significant risks that both construction on the T4 site and the required dredging will mobilise these contaminants into the groundwater and estuary system. This is an enormous environmental and public health risk, including to future site workers.

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