Yesterday the ASEN road trip crew travelled up to Newcastle and was taken for a tour of the Newcastle Port by our travel guide Jonothan Moylan. From Nobby’s Headland, we saw the dredging boat taking out sediment to dump it offshore widen the channel to accomodate more coal exports. We stood over the large arterial railway that takes coal trains to and from the port day in and day out, not even breaking for holidays. There coal trains are not covered and the coal dust poses a health risk to the 23,000 children who go to a school within 500m of the train line.

We stood underneath the monolithic structures at the BHP billion coal terminal where over 180 000 tonnes of coal are exported daily. It has been a site for continuous non-violent direct action since it was built in 2013. There is widespread community opposition to the coal industry here, Jono tells us, mostly because people are uncertain about the future of coal and how that implicates the sustainability and health of the community.

Finally Jono took us to the CSIRO Energy Centre’s model concentrating solar thermal plant. He tells us that mirrors concentrate sunlight, whose energy is then stored in molten salt to produce large amounts of baseload power. Concentrating solar thermal energy would play a significant part in the future of renewables in Australia, according to the 2010 Beyond Zero Emissions Report. Seeing that efforts are being made to incorporate renewable energy into the future gave an optimistic gloss to our Newcastle tour.

Thanks for sharing with us Jono!

Today we’re heading up to the Pilliga. Stay tuned for updates.