Queensland graziers and environmentalists battle to stop a mega coal mine, part-owned by Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart.
Six parties have challenged the multi-billion dollar Alpha coal mine in the Land Court of Queensland, and a decision is expected early next year.
They argue the proposed Galilee Basin mine will contribute to climate change and have “permanent and irreversible” effects on ground water.
Cattle farmer Janeice Anderson’s property is depended on ground water. She says levels are projected to fall by up to five metres within a 10 kilometre radius of the mine over its 30-year life span.
Her property neighbours the Alpha mine and will also be surrounded by Indian conglomerate GVK’s Kevin’s Corner thermal coal mine, and Clive Palmer’s China First coal project.
She said there would be no cumulative study on all the mines’ final impact on groundwater.
“We are between a rock and a hard place,” she told the court on Friday.
“How the loss of ground supplies will be made good or compensated for is a devastating and ever-increasing concern for us and our children’s future.
“Once the aquifers are dewatered and depressurised, there will be no remediating.”
About 175 billion litres of ground water will be removed in 30 years, which is about enough to keep a tap running for 22,000 years, figures provided by community group Coast and Country Association of Queensland (CCAQ) showed.
About 22,500 hectares of vegetation will be cleared, which is roughly eight times the footprint of the city of Sydney.
And 61 million tonnes of CO2 would be emitted each year, which is higher than annual emissions from both Finland and Denmark.
But Damian Clothier QC for Hancock Coal says that equates to just 0.16 per cent of annual global emissions.
“The contribution is negligible,” he said in his submission.
Furthermore, the land that will be cleared has been disturbed by grazing, and conditions imposed include a groundwater monitoring program and ‘make-good’ agreements with landholders.
The Alpha project is 79 per cent owned by GVK and 21 per cent owned by Rinehart’s Hancock Coal.
The Alpha and Kevin’s Corner mines wouldn’t impact the Great Artesian Basin to the west, but would impact ground water past the mining lease to the north and south, Hancock Coal’s submission read.
Mr Clothier argued the company is not bound to do any modelling on the cumulative impacts of other future mines and shouldn’t be criticised.
Nicholas Loos, counsel on behalf of the state, recommended the court support the mine. “The conditions imposed protect Queensland’s environment while allowing for development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future,” his submission read.
Barrister Adrian Finanzio QC, who represents CCAQ, pleaded with the Land Court to stand in the way of the mine and a state government that was “feverishly” approving leases.