Melbourne: The Victorian government in Australia is looking at exporting millions of tonnes of high polluting brown coal to developing nations, including India, media reports said.
According to The Sunday Age report, hundreds of people protested on Sunday in Latrobe Valley against Hazelwood, the state’s dirtiest brown coal power station, and a new environmental battle is likely against the Brumby Government over use of the state’s massive coal reserves.
Government sources have told the daily that energy minister Peter Batchelor took a plan of exporting 12 million tonnes of brown coal annually to India to a recent Cabinet meeting.
While no decision has been made as yet, spokeswoman for Batchelor, Emma Tyner said any allocation of coal would require “careful consideration of emerging needs and a rigorous environmental approval process.”
The energy minister’s support of brown coal exports has angered green groups. They believe the Latrobe Valley should be moving away from brown coal, the report said.
“Any decision to develop a brown coal export industry would go down as one of the worst environmental decisions in the state’s history,” Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said.
The daily said that ministers sought more information on the export proposal. However, the company behind the export proposal, Exergen, is confident that it will gain access to a new release of brown coal.
“I think we are making good progress,” chief executive Jack Hamilton told the daily. “What we hear is that it is being discussed in the government and hopefully things will come together shortly,” he said.
The company expects to earn $700 million a year in export income for Victoria.
Victorian Premier John Brumby has backed Victoria’s use of brown coal, but said it must be used with clean technology in future.
The Brumby Government has no official policy on exporting brown coal because, until recently, the Latrobe Valley’s 33 billion tonnes of usable brown coal could only be used for power plants to generate electricity.
Brown coal had been ruled out as an export because of its high water content and its flammability.
Exergen, an Australian-based company with Japanese and Indian corporate partners, hopes to start construction on a de-watering facility next year that would create 350 ongoing jobs.
Opposition environment spokesman David Davis said the Coalition would not rule out backing brown coal exports, but it needed to assess the proposal.