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coal uncertainty

A new report shows exports through Newcastle fell by close to 30 per cent in January, with the numbers coming ahead of the NSW reservation plan.

According to a recent article in the Australian Financial Review, Port Waratah Coal Services – the biggest terminal operator within Newcastle Port – loaded just 6.7 million tonnes of coal in January, down from 10.22 million tonnes in January 2022.

More broadly, the volume of coal exports from Newcastle in 2022 fell to 136.2 million tonnes, down from 165 million in 2019, making last year the weakest since 2012.

The recent slump in exports comes in anticipation of the NSW coal reservation scheme, a move targeted at mandating that all mines in the state set aside 10 per cent of their coal for domestic use as a response to the county’s rising energy demands.

“This coal cap scheme will see NSW doing our part at the request of the Albanese Government to contribute to the national solution of this national problem,” NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said.

The reservation plan comes on the heels of the Federal Government’s plan to cap coal prices at $125 per tonne in an effort to address runaway electricity prices in Australia, which are tipped to skyrocket 56 per cent by the end of 2023.

The NSW reservation plan has caused widespread controversy in the industry.

“The policy was only ever meant to apply to existing mine sites that were already supplying thermal coal to the local market. It was never meant to go beyond that,” NSW Hunter Labor MP Dan Repacholi said last week.

In addition, BHP has made it clear that the change threatens to cut short the life of its Mt Arthur coal mine, while Japanese petrol giant Idemitsu has also questioned the moved.  

“The NSW Government’s proposed coal reservation scheme makes it harder to do business and meet the demands of our long-term export customers, whilst undermining Australia’s position as a stable and competitive investment destination,” Idemitsu’s Australian chief executive officer Steve Kovac said.

“The scheme poses a significant long-term threat to the NSW economy.”