Australian state "secretly" assists Shenhua's search for new coal prospects

THE government of Australia's NSW state has directed staff to help the Chinese miner Shenhua search for new coalmines south of Sydney. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the move is "part of a secret and ambitious plan to divert trains carrying millions of tonnes of coal from Gunnedah through Sydney to Port Kembla, bypassing Newcastle."

Shenhua Watermark Coal, a subsidiary of the world's biggest coal company, Shenhua Energy, "is still seeking approval for a coalmine on the Liverpool Plains that would eventually produce $40 billion worth of thermal coal for Chinese power stations, in the teeth of opposition from local farmers," the newspaper reported.

"But the company, which is majority-owned by the Chinese government, missed the deadline last August for joining in with the expansion of the Newcastle coal port, which is now clogged with the traffic of other coal exporters. Documents obtained by the NSW Greens detail efforts by the government to take coal from the Liverpool Plains an extra 200 to 300 kilometres south to Port Kembla, avoiding Newcastle."

The government has charged Industry and Investment NSW, part of the Department of Primary Industries, with finding possible new coalmines for Shenhua south of Sydney, to help justify the switch.

The company told the government it plans to extract a million tonnes of coal by the end of 2013, 3 to 4 million by 2014, and 7 million by 2015, all of which would be exported to China, where Shenhua operates 55 coal-fired power plants.