Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Climate Change spokesperson
Today in GBE Estimates it was revealed that Tasmanians would not be consulted about the use of public rail infrastructure, should thermal coal mining in Tasmania progress to export stage.
Any feasibility study to assess the costs, impacts and risks of rail transport would occur behind closed doors. This is despite the fact TasRail officials raised the possibility that 50% of infrastructure changes to accommodate thermal coal exports could be via public funding.
It is deeply concerning that if a proposal is made to use the TasRail network for thermal coal export, Tasmanians would be shut of the process and kept in the dark about the details.
The existing coal proposals would more than double the total freight load currently carried on TasRail tracks every year.
At present, the annual freight TasRail carries each year is 3 million tonnes. Midland Energy and Hardrock Coal propose to use the rail network to transport 4 million tonnes of thermal coal annually – and that figure does not include a potential third project by Junction Coal.
When questioned about future planning, TasRail admitted no consideration is being given to the potential for thermal coal exports entering the network. That’s surprising given the scale of these potential projects.
In a climate emergency, it is alarming that public funds - such as those available through the Infrastructure Investment Fund - to support the export of thermal coal could even be a possibility.
The level of backlash directed at railway companies for their involvement in coal projects in other parts of Australia has been enormous. TasRail should be considering the possibility of the same occurring in Tasmania.
The Greens call on TasRail to recognise the reputational risk of transporting thermal coal on its network, and to develop a public consultation process as part of any future feasibility study for bringing new products onto the rail network.