BHP Billiton walks away from Abbot Point T2 terminal

AUSTRALIAN resources giant BHP Billiton is walking away from a $3 billion port proposal, casting a pall over the massive expansion plans of Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen and leaving a critical component without a developer.

The "T2" terminal was to be funded by BHP, giving it access to 30 million tonnes of coal-loading capacity per year.

It would have required 750 jobs, 500 of which would be to build the terminal.

Even without BHP's support, T2 will likely form one of six terminals on the cards for Abbot Point, with the port to be capable of loading 300 million tonnes of coal per year from 2020.

Currently there is just one terminal - T1.

The state-owned North Queensland Bulk Ports is waiting for approval to dredge 3 million tonnes of material ahead of the expansion, which has frustrated conservation groups concerned about the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt last week delayed the decision until mid December.

If green-lit, mining companies will begin the development of three stand-alone terminals book ending the current T1, worth up to $9 billion.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the loss of BHP from Abbot Point would be a win for another mining company keen to capitalise on the port's development.

BHP is already three-quarters of the way through its $1.5 billion expansion of Hay Point coal terminal south of Mackay, which the company believes will be enough to suit its cooling investment strategy.

Its departure follows a similar escape from Abbot Point by Rio Tinto in April this year.

At the time, BHP denied any intention of following suit.

Its building of the Caval Ridge mine near Moranbah is now BHP's only project under construction in the region aside from its expansion of Hay Point.

BHP leaves behind a team of powerful resource players including the Indian-owned Adani and GVK which are developing oversized coal mines in the Galilee Basin - both confirmed no change to plans.

The ambitions of NorthHub - a joint venture between Aurizon and Lend Lease - are also understood to be unchanged.

Anglo American would not discuss its plans at the port, which currently include developing its own terminal.