READY TO GO: Marcus McAuliffe, chief operating officer, and Robert Barnes, chief executive officer, on site at Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal.
READY TO GO: Marcus McAuliffe, chief operating officer, and Robert Barnes, chief executive officer, on site at Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal. Mike Richards

WICET partners already talking about expansion

GLADSTONE'S newest coal terminal hasn't even begun loading coal onto ships, but project heads are already talking expansion, despite instability around the global coal market.

Now that Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal is nearing completion, its operational team will work hard to hit its physical capacity to handle 27 million tonnes of coal per annum within its first year of operation.

In reality though it will depend heavily on its customers' commercial matters.

WICET is owned by eight coal companies, including Bandanna Energy that went into administration in September, and Glencore, which will shut its coal business for three weeks in December to shave five million tonnes of output.

Chief operating officer Marcus McAuliffe said although there was a lot of conversation around the price of coal, the project had been a well-considered investment made with a view of the medium to long-term market.

"Any credible analyst is forecasting a healthy demand profile for Queensland coal," he said.

"WICET is strongly backed by large organisations with strong balance sheets."

Mr McAuliffe said WICET had a mandate to expand up to 120mtpa.

"Approvals are in place for up to 84mtpa, and we really are set up and ready to go," he said.

"Our two current milestones are to hit a physical capacity to handle 27mtpa with a mechanical ramp-up period of 12 months…the reality is dependent on the customers' commercial matters.

"The biggest determining factor for those two milestones is going to be dependent on commodity prices and the correction of coal prices."

Mr McAuliffe said with the mechanical aspects of the project virtually completed, they had begun commissioning and powering up the site.

"We still have a lot of risks to take care of…we're not letting our guard down," he said.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, on his visit to the site yesterday, said the project guaranteed the future of the coal industry in central Queensland.



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