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Protesters shut down Australian coal port

  |   Sept. 27, 2010 at 1:13 PM
NEWCASTLE, Australia, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- The world's largest coal terminal in Australia was inoperable for several hours Sunday because of an "emergency intervention" by environmental activists.

The protesters claimed that the massive amount of coal exported is a main cause of global warming in Australia.

Several of the protesters, who broke into the facility about 5 a.m., suspended themselves from coal-loaders, effectively shutting down Newcastle Coal Terminal, north of Sydney.

The coal-loaders, which normally continue non-stop, were operational by about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, The Newcastle Herald reports. Police arrested 45 members of protest organizer Rising Tide Newcastle.

"We are exporting global warming to the world. Here in Newcastle, already the world's biggest coal port, multinational mining corporations are planning to triple exports over the next decade. It's a similar story at all coal ports in the country," said Annika Dean, spokeswoman for Rising Tide Newcastle.

Australia is the world's biggest exporter of coal.

Newcastle Port Corp. estimated that Newcastle's coal exports would reach 10 million tons for this month.

Rio Tinto Group, Xstrata Plc and BHP Billiton are among mining companies that export the fuel from Newcastle.

Demand for coal through the Port of Newcastle has grown by more than 32 percent over the past decade, says Port Waratah Coal Services, operator of the Carrington and Kooragang terminals, which have recently increased their export capacity from 113 million to 133 million tons a year.

A new $1 billion terminal was opened in March to handle 30 additional million tons of coal a year in the first stage, later upgrading to 66 million tons, and a fourth Newcastle coal terminal is being planned, to take exports to more than 300 million tons a year.

The lineup of ships waiting outside Newcastle Harbor to be loaded with coal reflects the booming demand. The queue of vessels averaged 14 in the middle of September, and reached as high as 60 last December.

"Global warming is happening now and it is killing people," Dean said, citing floods in Pakistan and China and fires in Siberia.

"Australia is a major contributor to this crisis, due to the massive volumes of coal we export."

Dean urged the Australian government to place an immediate moratorium on the expansion of the coal industry.

James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, dubbed the ''godfather of climate science," has likened Australia's continued export of coal in the face of global warming to that of a ''drug dealer'' feeding the world's fossil fuel addiction.

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