PLANS to build a fourth coal terminal at the Port of Newcastle have progressed with the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) recommending the project for approval and referring the application to the Planning Assessment Commission for a final decision. Port Waratah Coal Services, which owns and operates the port's Kooragang and Carrington terminals, has been working with government, rail providers and coal producers to increase capacity at the port through the Terminal 4 project. The original master plan allowed for a capability of 120 million tonnes per annum throughput; however since the plan was lodged with the DPE decreases in coal demand saw the project revised down to 70mtpa throughput. "We have been seeking approval for Terminal 4 for almost five years, and this is a very welcome next step in the process," Port Waratah Coal Services chief executive Hennie du Plooy said. "We were broadly supportive of the outcomes of the PAC review last year and subsequently agreed with a number of the PAC's recommendations," he said. "As part of the Terminal 4 engineering and environmental studies we have extensively examined the different engineering and construction options to reach an outcome that best balances the environmental, social, economic and engineering factors, and we have sought to continue to achieve this balance when responding to the PAC's recommendations." In its findings the DPE recommended doubling approval for the project to 10 years. "The department considers that a longer, 10-year lapse period is appropriate for large, complex projects with long lead times for approval, design and construction, such as [Terminal 4]," the department stated. The project has faced ongoing opposition from health and environmental groups concerned about the ability to adequately control noise and dust emissions. However the DPE was satisfied that strict conditions of approval would ensure that biodiversity, air quality, noise and other impacts were minimised, concluding that the Terminal 4 project was in the public interest and should be approved. The project is expected to create 1500 jobs during its construction phase, and about 80 permanent positions. The project's proposal outlines plans to upgrade local roads, fix contaminated land and protect biodiversity areas to compensate for the impact of construction. Terminal 4 will also require approval under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999).