The approval of the $2.2 billion rail line is expected to unlock the Galilee Basin’s abundant coal resources.
Queensland's independent Coordinator General has given the go ahead to the 300-kilometre Galilee Basin rail line, which will connect the proposed Carmichael coal mine to the port at Abbot Point on Queensland's eastern coast.
The $2.2 billion standard gauge greenfield rail line is expected to take two years to complete, bringing as much as $790 million to the Mackay region as well as more than $900 million to the state economy during the construction phase of the project, and creating as many as 2400 jobs.
In addition to the jobs and investment brought by the project to Queensland during the building of the rail line itself, the state government is also touting the economic benefits that the infrastructure project will unleash by facilitating access to the Galilee Basin's coal resources.
"The multi-billion dollar coal projects proposed for the Galilee Basin have the potential to create the next wave of resource sector jobs in Queensland, and dramatically boost out state's coal exports," said Jeff Sweeney, Deputy Premier and Minister for State Department, Infrastructure and Planning. "Our government's strong plan to develop this region will set Queensland up for the next 60 to 70 years, allowing us to invest in the schools, hospitals, roads and services we will need for future generations."
The line will transport as much as 100 million tonnes of coal per annum, with product from the Carmichael mine destined primarily for the Indian market, where owner the Adnani Group is based.
The proposed rail line is not without its detractors, however, with both farmers and environmental groups strongly opposed to its development.
Landholder group Corridor to Coast - Galilee Network claims that the project will severely affect Graziers by stripping them of their rights to pasture land around the rail corridor.
"The majority of affected landholders are opposed to the state development area because it fails to strike the right balance between the interests of overseas mining companies and farmers," said Corridor to Coast - Galilee Network spokesperson Shontae Moran. "We think the committee should take a good look at how state development areas have already hurt other businesses and priorities."
Moran notes that aborted plans for the development of a rail line to the Surat Basin resulted in a 30 per cent decline in land values.
Environmental groups are also strenuously opposed to the development of the Galilee Basin's mineral resources, chiefly due to concerns about the impact on the Great Barrier Reef created by transporting huge amounts of coal from the Abbot Point terminal.
According to Australian Marine Conservation Society campaigner Felicity wish art the Carmichael Coal Mine will add a further 480 ships to traffic across the reef once it reaches full capacity.
The state government has sought to reassure detractors with assurances that the approval is contingent upon consideration of the interests of landholders as well as the surrounding environment.
"Rigorous conditions protect flora and fauna and address surface water, air quality and noise emissions," said Seeney. "Proponents must also develop an agreement with each affected landholder that stipulates how access will be maintained to homesteads, stock feeding areas and water supply."