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Hunter Valley coal's annual health bill USD 600 million - Dr Hanna

Coal News - Published on Tue, 24 Feb 2015

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It is reported that the coal industry in the Hunter Valley could leave taxpayers with annual health bills running into the hundreds of millions of dollars and further mine expansion should be halted.

The Coal and Health in the Hunter report by the Climate and Health Alliance estimates that burning coal for electricity in the valley alone produces health damage in the order of USD 600 million annually from the resulting air pollution, including the release of small particles.

Dr Liz Hanna, president of the alliance and a research fellow in epidemiology at the Australian National University, said that “The particulate matter from coal, measured in 2.5 million to 10 million of a metre in diameter, lodges into the linings of the blood vessels and causes inflammation and irritation, and leads to long-term cardio-vascular and lung disorders."

Dr Hanna said that "It's not just people falling ill today, but also the negative impacts [coal is] going to have on their systems so that they end up with cancers in years to come."

The release of other chemicals, including from blasts at the region's mostly open-cut coal mines, noise and water pollution also undermine the health of residents.

The Hunter Valley produces about 145 million tonnes of coal a year, 126 million tonnes of which is exported, and the remainder burnt in the region's power stations.

The report notes that on current projections, coal production will expand to 243 million tonnes by 2022, requiring a 50% increase in coal trains and resulting in a further rise in coal dust problems for residents along the valley and in Newcastle.
A 2014 report for the NSW Minerals Council estimated Hunter coal contributes in total USD 6.3 billion annually to the state's economy, or almost half of the total mining industry's output in the state. The region's coal industry also employed more than 18,000 people.

The CAHA report said that if the climate change costs from burning the coal are taken into account, the damage bill soars into the billions.

The report said that when burnt, the current annual output of Hunter coal converts to about 348 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Using US government estimates of a social cost of USD 37 (USD 47) per tonne of carbon dioxide, the cost swells to about USD 16.4 billion, and would to increase to USD 26 billion if the 2022 mine expansion goal is reached.

Dr Hanna said that "There's a total disassociation of who gets the benefits and who gets the pain, and we don't think that's particularly moral or just. There should be a moratorium on any further expansion, and essentially, coal should be phased out."

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Posted By : admin on Tue, 24 Feb 2015
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