Indian power giant Lanco Infratech has moved to put a difficult two years of operating in Australia behind it by lodging environmental documents to export up to 15 million tonnes of coal a year through Bunbury port.

Pending approvals, Lanco hopes to begin dredging in June next year with construction of the new berth being completed in October 2014. The project is expected to create 400 construction jobs and about 70 full-time positions, according to the company.

"It is envisaged that coal (exports) at the berth will be at a maximum rate of 8000 tonnes per hour," Lanco's documents lodged yesterday with the Environmental watchdog said. Lanco has already announced it is expanding its Collie-based mines to 5.2mtpa from about 3.8mtpa early next year to supply domestic power stations and about 2mtpa of exports to India via Bunbury and Kwinana.

It plans an interim mobile container loading system at Bunbury provided by Qube Logistics.

However, some industry figures have questioned whether the mobile crane used by the Chris Corrigan-backed outfit can process the planned 1.25mt of coal exports a year from the Southern port.

Heavily indebted Lanco also faces challenges to fund its expansion in Collie to an eventual 17mtpa by 2017, although it has begun a search for an equity partner to fund the $1 billion-plus push. It is also ensnared in a bitter legal dispute with former customer Perdaman Chemicals.

However, Lanco gained a big boost last month by winning higher prices for coal it supplies to Bluewaters power station.

The West Australian

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