NSW coal industry flags move to cover coal wagons

The NSW Minerals Council issued a media statement today to announce an independent study into particle pollution from uncovered coal wagons. Community groups in the Hunter welcome the study as a step toward covering coal wagons and improved community health.

“This study takes us one step closer to covering the millions of uncovered coal wagons that pollute coal corridor suburbs,” said Hunter Community Environment Centre spokesperson Ms Fee Mozeley.

The NSW Minerals Council issued a media statement today to announce an independent study into particle pollution from uncovered coal wagons. Community groups in the Hunter welcome the study as a step toward covering coal wagons and improved community health.

 

This study takes us one step closer to covering the millions of uncovered coal wagons that pollute coal corridor suburbs,” said Hunter Community Environment Centre spokesperson Ms Fee Mozeley.

In Newcastle and the Lower Hunter, 30,000 people live within 500 metres of the coal corridor. The city exports 150 million tonnes of coal annually, with 4 million uncovered coal wagons rattling through residential areas.

“The mining industry has shifted from denying there’s a problem to looking seriously at management options to tackle this significant health problem,” said Ms Mozeley.

The benefits of covering coal wagons received state-wide attention last week when HCEC exposed a systematic two-year cover-up of monitoring results by the state’s Environment Protection Authority and Environment Minister Robyn Parker. Labor’s Upper House Leader Luke Foley accused Environment Minister of knowlingly misleading Parliament. Premier Barry O’Farrell denied his government had ever refuted the fact that coal trains pollute.

Coal corridor communities welcome NSW Minerals Council study

“We have two concerns with the study announced today by the Minerals Council,” said Ms Mozeley.

“Firstly, the study is expected to consider veneering (spraying the surface of coal loads with water or chemicals) as one option. Reports prepared for the coal industry and government demonstrate that metal or fiberglass covers are best practice and reduce coal dust emissions by 99%,” she said. “In the world’s largest coal port, we deserve best practice, not a second rate option that will solve only part of the problem.”

“Secondly, the Minerals Council keeps drawing attention to how much fine particle (PM2.5) pollution, comes from wood heaters in the Hunter Valley. Particle pollution from coal mining is generally larger – between 2.5 and 10 microns in diameter. Coal miners should take responsibility for their pollution and stop pointing the finger at pollutants that mostly come from other sources.”

Ms Mozeley coordinates HCEC’s Dust and Health Committee. The group initiated a community-funded monitoring study in 2013 that demonstrated particle pollution levels increase by 1300% when coal trains pass. Last week, HCEC exposed a two-year cover of pollution monitoring results in the Hunter.

Newcastle is the world’s largest coal port. More than 4 million uncovered coal wagons pass through the city each year. This is set to increase by 50% if a proposed fourth coal terminal is approved. Particle pollution kills more Australians each year than car crashes.

HCEC launched their state-wide ‘Cover the Wagons’ petition earlier this month. The petition will trigger a parliamentary debate and is supported by residents in the Blue Mountains, Illawarra region, suburbs in northern and western Sydney and throughout the Upper Hunter.

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