Never mind Newcastle, Belfast is now exporting coal aroudn the world to markets such as Australia and the Middle East after an investment of £30 million by locally based LCC Group and Belfast Harbour.
Since opening last year, LCC’s £12m facility has handled almost 500,000 tonnes of processed coal which is exported directly across the world to destinations such as Saudi Arabia, Australia, Scandinavia, mainland Europe and North Africa.
LCC’s investment and export opportunity is in turn built on an investment of around £20m by Belfast Harbour in recent years to enhance its deep water and cranage capability.
The LCC facility, the most sophisticated of its kind in the world, removes impurities from coal shipped in from Colombia.
It is then shipped back out for use producing ferro alloy and silica metals used in the manufacture of hi-end products such as solar panels and medical equipment.
The joint project has helped make the city the unlikely centre of the global supply chain for hi-tech coal, creating more than 130 direct and indirect jobs along the way including engineers, lab technicians and port support services.
“This £12m investment means that LCC operates one of the most environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art coal processing facilities to be found anywhere in the world,” said Michael Loughran, a director of the family owned business.
“Working in partnership with Belfast Harbour and building upon its investments in port infrastructure, LCC is now to the fore of the emerging clean-tech coal sector. The facility is designed to meet the most stringent 21st century environmental standards, and uses the most up-to-date technology to combat potential air and water pollution.”
Michael Robinson, commercial director at the harbour said: “Belfast is now handling direct export shipments to Saudi Arabia for the first time in its history and recently exported bulk cargo to Australia for the first time in living memory.
“This new trade is also supporting jobs across a wide range of port services including stevedores and hauliers.”
This week the harbour handled a shipment of 20,000 tonnes of processed coal bound for Saudi Arabia.