Orica plant shutdown affects coal industry

Orica's Kooragang Island chemical plant.
Friday, November 25, 2011

After ammonia gas leaked from Orica’s Kooragang Island chemical plant on November 9 and made two people four kilometers away very ill, the Environment Protection Authority ordered the plant to shut down.

But because Orica is its major supplier, the Hunter’s coal industry has as little as three to four weeks of explosives in stock.

The largest Hunter mining company, Coal & Allied, told the November 22 Newcastle Herald it had cut production due to the explosives shortage.

The Herald reported that Premier Barry O’Farrell said through a spokesperson: “While the NSW government recognises there are some impacts on industry, it is up to Orica to do the work required to convince the relevant authorities that it can operate safely.’’

Stockton Community Action Group members are concerned about the plant and wanted it kept closed, spokesman Keith Craig said. In August, another leak from the Orica plant covered Stockton — a nearby suburb — with toxic chemicals.

Environment Protection Authority chief Greg Sullivan told the Herald he understood the concerns of Stockton residents in nearby suburbs but had no grounds to keep the facility shut once Orica had satisfied the “prevention notices” issued by the authority.