By Eve Sinton • Fossil Fool Bulletin, 29 October 2019
Billionaire Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal company application for an Environmental Authority and a Mining Lease for a mega-mine in the Galilee Basin has been condemned by local landowners and national environment groups.
Palmer’s push for the project follows Adani’s success in bullying governments to approve its Carmichael Mine in the region, and Palmer’s recent $60 million election spend which he admits aimed to polarize the electorate. Palmer argues his advertising helped deliver the Coalition’s unexpected win.
Commentators say Palmer’s electioneering gives him enormous leverage over governments to promote his business interests, even though he failed to win any seats.
China First re-branded
Originally known as ‘China First’, the revived proposal has been re-branded the ‘Galilee Coal Project’. (Palmer also has another Galilee Basin mining ambition called Alpha North.)
Located about 30km north of Alpha, the Galilee Coal Project comprises four underground coal mines, two open-cut coal mines and a 453km standard-gauge railway line.
According to an environmental impact statement, the project will create 3,500 jobs in construction and 2,325 jobs in operation – figures which are likely to be highly optimistic, given the industry’s track record of exaggerating employment prospects.
The Government’s Coal Assessment Hub issued a notice of the mining lease application on October 4, requiring any objections to be lodged on or before December 2.
The 40 million tonne per annum project would destroy a nature refuge in central Queensland if it goes ahead. It had not progressed since 2013 but has now been revived with a public notice advising of the application for leases.
Landowners object: water worries
Local landowner and Nature Refuge co-owner Paola Cassoni said she would be considering all her options now that the ML and EA had been notified.
“The first of 26 boreholes was sunk on the Nature Reserve in 2008, but we locked our gates and stopped the extra 100 boreholes. We have submitted to the Environmental Impact Statement and voiced our concerns throughout the EIS process.
“But by making an objection to the land court Waratah’s assertions about the impacts of the mine can finally be put to the test.
“We have been in drought out here for more than three years. Our groundwater is all we have to depend on. We have no choice but to use all options open to us to protect this important pocket of country.”
“We have until December 2 to gather information for our objection. Any Nature Refuge owner out there, and there are more than 500 of us, that feels outraged like we do that this government would allow mining on a Nature Refuge, please join me in the fight.
“And any graziers that are worried about their water, please join us too.
A recent Supreme Court decision has thrown into doubt the consideration of groundwater during the grant of an Environmental Authority and in any subsequent Land Court processes.
Graziers are now calling on the government to amend legislation to confirm that the impacts of mining on groundwater will be properly considered at all stages of the assessment and approvals process, including for the Galilee Coal Project.
Reef and climate change impacts
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has called for Palmer’s project to be rejected given its impact on the climate and the Great Barrier Reef.
Shani Tager, AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Manager said: “Our precious Reef is in grave danger and needs our care and stewardship more than anything right now. In order to give our Reef a fighting chance in the face of galloping climate change and rising ocean temperatures, we need to urgently transition to renewable energy, not sanction new coal projects like this.
“Mining and burning more coal at a time when our Reef is already suffering the impacts of climate change is reckless beyond belief.
Ms Tager added: “Just last month the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority warned that the long-term outlook for the health of our Reef is very poor because of climate change. Letting new mines like this go ahead will add fuel to the fire and make things worse.
In addition, the coal from the Galilee Coal Project would be shipped directly through the Great Barrier Reef. “A healthy Reef is critical for the tourism industry, it is Australia’s most loved natural asset and supports 64,000 plus jobs. Queensland and Australia are custodians of our Reef and need to lead by example to show that we can have a bright future beyond coal, which is the only path forwards if we are to avoid runaway climate change.