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Conservation movement vows high impact campaign to prevent woodchip exports from Newcastle

The conservation movement is mobilising to block a new plan to export 60,000 tonnes of native forest woodchips annually to fuel a Japanese power station. [1] 

The company behind the proposal, energy start-up Sweetman Renewables [2], has gone to market seeking $4 million from investors to kick start it plans, which include supplying native forest biomass to Redbank power station near Singleton and its customer in Japan. [3] 

“The conservation movement will do whatever it can to stop woodchips being exported from the port of Newcastle,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.     

“Logging to supply the woodchip export industry on the south coast been utterly devastation for our southern forests. 

“We will not allow wood chipping to destroy the healthy forest ecosystems we still have in the northern half of the state. 

“There is never an acceptable reason to trash our native forests, but turning them into woodchips to burn in Japanese power stations is utterly idiotic.   

“Our precious native forests are worth far more standing than they are burnt in the furnaces of a power station.   

“The conservation movement campaigned for 30 years to shut the Boral woodchip export terminal at Newcastle, a campaign we won in 2013.      

“Anyone thinking of investing in Sweetman Renewables should be made aware the conservation movement will not rest until this proposal is dead and buried.” 

References 

[1] See Newcastle Herald article attached  

[2] About Sweetman Renewables, website 

[2] Private Placement Sweetman Renewables Ltd, Barclay Pearce Capital, 4-9-21  

 

BACKGROUND  

Sweetman Milling was a family-owned saw milling business that operated near Cessnock for about a century.  

Earlier this year, Sweetman was by energy start-up Sweetman Renewables.  

Sweetman Renewables plans to refresh the business by expanding milling operations and using forest biomass and other sources of wood waste from the manufacturing and construction industries as either fuel for a re-commissioned Redbank power station near Singleton or as feedstock to create hydrogen gas. 

The company is seeking capital investment of $4 million to progress its plans and gain necessary approvals before listing on the Australian stock exchange. 

This capital raising is being managed by Barclay Pearce Capital (BPC), a corporate advisory and equities trading firm and closed on September 10. 

Among the “highlights” listed on the BPC website are:   

  • 20-year offtake contract signed with Japanese conglomerate to supply 60,000 tonnesper annum of biomass at US$75 per tonne. Valued at US$4.5m per annum or US$90m over the 20-year contract life. 
  • Advanced offtake contracts in place with Hunter Valley based Redbank Biomass Plant to be retrofitted by Verdant Earth Technologies.

If these projects come to fruition, they would pose a significant threat to native forests on the North Coast because they will increase pressure to shift operations on the North Coast from selective logging (where mostly only trees fit for sawn timber are removed) to intensive logging operations similar to those on the South Coast where clearfelling is permitted. 

After years of clearfelling to feed the Eden woodchip mill for export, forests on the South Coast have become highly degraded and less biologically rich. 

For instance, koalas in the south are virtually extinct but were once so abundant that there was a thriving koala pelt export industry operating, ironically, out Eden, the same port now used to export wood chips. 

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