Coal ships queued up at Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay Coal loading facilities. Picture: Daryl Wright
Coal ships queued up at Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay Coal loading facilities. Picture: Daryl Wright

Call for action as China coal fears hit Mackay

FEARS of Chinese restrictions on Australian coal have ramped up in Mackay, with a Queensland election candidate claiming "volumes have dropped off at the ports".

Labor candidate for Mirani Shane Hamilton has called on the Federal Government to take action in response to reports that the import of Australian coal to China could be slowed or restricted.

The coal industry is a huge employer in the Mackay region.

Throughput volumes at Hay Point Coal Terminal dropped from 3.8 million in August 2019-20 to 3.5 million in August 2020-21.

Throughput volumes reduced from 4.1 million in September 2019-20 to 3.9 million in September 2020-21.

It was a similar story at Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal, where throughput volumes dropped from 5.3 million in August 2019-20 to 4.4 million in 2020-21.

The September throughput of 4.1 million for 2020-21 was down from 5.4 million in the previous year.

Industry sources say coal import restrictions have been happening for more than three years, and have become more noticeable at the end of each calendar year, as annual quotas get exhausted.

COAL CONCERNS: Queensland election candidate claims “volumes have dropped off at the ports”. Picture: Minerals Council of Australia
COAL CONCERNS: Queensland election candidate claims “volumes have dropped off at the ports”. Picture: Minerals Council of Australia

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Mr Hamilton said he was concerned about this volume drop at ports.

"I've had mates that have been stood down from work or forced to take leave," he said.

"We need the federal LNP government to level with us here and tell us what's going on and what is the plan to protect these jobs?

"The prime minister needs to do something immediately to fix this situation."

Dawson MP George Christensen said the global downturn was causing a lower demand for coal and lower coal prices.

"It will have an impact on jobs but let's not be alarmist - there are thousands of jobs up for grabs in our region," Mr Christensen said.

"The Morrison Liberal National Government have just brought down their budget, something which the Palaszczuk Labor Government have yet to do, which has delivered about $500 million in infrastructure funding for our region to create local jobs.

"Having said all of that, as the world comes out of the pandemic, economies will be on the rise and that will mean more power consumption and more steel production which will mean more coal production from our region, creating more local jobs."

Labor state election candidate for Mirani Shane Hamilton. Picture: supplied
Labor state election candidate for Mirani Shane Hamilton. Picture: supplied

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said while coal through Dalrymple Bay had dropped by 7 per cent for September, coal through Hay Point Coal Terminal increased 13 per cent last month.

He said there were lengthy maintenance closures at both coal terminals as well.

"The buyers for coking coal are still there. As of Friday, there are nine ships waiting in the queue to berth at DBCT and eight at HPCT," he said.

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Mr Macfarlane also pointed to Queensland Treasury's recent long term study of global coal demand.

The study noted the scale of planned expansion of India's steel production capacity meant that Queensland would likely be in a prime position to benefit from this planned expansion.

It continued: "India's expansion, if it eventuates, is expected to be large enough to offset, or largely offset, any potential reduction in demand for metallurgical coal from China."

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