Safety derails Whitehaven's coal plan

THE Boggabri derailment is proving a mounting headache for Whitehaven Coal, which has abandoned a trial of trucking coal from its Narrabri mine for safety reasons.

THE Boggabri derailment is proving a mounting headache for Whitehaven Coal, which has abandoned a trial of trucking coal from its Narrabri mine for safety reasons.

A fully-loaded coal train derailed on November 28 and the Australian Rail Track Corporation does not expect the line to reopen until Christmas.

Whitehaven previously signalled it would run out of stockpiling capability at Narrabri and would try to truck its coal, hauling up to 80,000 tonnes a week for two to three months from the mine to its Gunnedah coal handling and preparation plant - necessitating sending hundreds of trucks a day through city streets.

Whitehaven said that without the ability to transport coal from the site, stockpile capacity at Narrabri would be reached this month and operations at the mine would need to cease.

"This would result in lost production and financial impacts as well as the potential need to dislocate employees to other operations," the company said.

Whitehaven applied for state government approval and began a trial to truck the coal on Tuesday morning, but by Wednesday it was suspended.

Managing director Tony Haggarty said the risks associated with the extra traffic and interaction with other heavy vehicles were unacceptable.

"Our trucks have ceased to cart coal from the Narrabri mine and the Gunnedah CHPP and will not be returning to the roads until or unless we are comfortable that any risks associated can be managed," he said.

Environment group Front Line Action on Coal accused Whitehaven of breaking the law by putting 280 truck movements on the Kamilaroi Highway before obtaining approval from the Department of Transport.

The group lodged a submission against proposals by Whitehaven and Idemitsu to truck coal to Gunnedah via Boggabri, which would increase vehicle traffic by 56 per cent and emit large amounts of coal dust, and sought legal advice on an injunction to stop Whitehaven's trucking operation.

"A 42 tonne coal truck travelling at 100km/h is a serious threat to road safety, and many hundreds of them on our roads over the Christmas break is a massive risk to travelling families," a spokesman, Jonathan Moylan, said.

Whitehaven shares rose 2.9 per cent to $3.24 on Wednesday.