After four years, a multi-billion dollar coal mine set to be developed by Queensland mining magnate Clive Palmer in Central Queensland has been given a conditional go-ahead by the state government.
Last week, Queensland's Coordinator General gave approval for the $6.4 billion Galilee Coal Project, otherwise known as the ‘China First’ project, which will involve the development of a new coal mine and associated infrastructure located near Alpha in the Galilee Basin and a 468-kilometre rail line to export facilities at Abbott Point.
Should it go ahead, the project, to be developed by Palmer’s company Waratah Coal Pty Ltd, is expected to produce 40 million tonnes of thermal coal for export over the 30 years and generate up to 3,500 jobs during construction.
Aside from the railway, major structures involved in the mine itself include four surface mining pits, four long wall mines, haulage roads to deliver coal from surface mines to crushing facilities, overland conveyor systems, two coal preparation plants, water management structures including dams, levees and sediment traps, tailing dams and coarse spoil disposal areas, power lines and access roads and a mine office.
The project, which still requires federal approval, is controversial from an environmental perspective not only because of coal’s reputation as a brown fuel source and the likely impact of the coal facilities at Abbott Point upon the Great Barrier Reef but also because of specific impacts upon the Bimblebox nature reserve, which is considered an island of biodiversity in a region largely developed for grazing and has been home to confirmed sightings of the endangered black-throated finch.
"This coal mine would rip up the Bimblebox Nature Refuge - an 8,000 hectare remnant patch of native woodland, which serves as an invaluable habitat refuge for native wildlife, including the endangered Black Throated Finch," says Australian Greens environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters.
"The three mega coal mines would significantly increase Australia's contribution to global climate change, producing 100 megatonnes of coal every year. That's seven times more than the amount produced by Australia's current largest coal mine and more than one and a half times Queensland's total annual emissions."
She added that the massive amounts of coal mined at the site would pass through the Great Barrier Reef for export, which she said would have the effect of "turning this World Heritage Area into a shipping super highway.”
Coordinator General Barry Roe says conditions associated with the approval include a commitment by the company to offset the loss of values of Bimblebox and a requirement to implement procedures to manage surface and ground water impacts.
First proposed in 2008, construction was meant to have started in 2011, but has been delayed due to the length of time taken to complete the approval process.
Meanwhile, the Coordinator General has asked building materials supplier Boral for more information on its proposed new Gold Coast quarry.
Located on a 220-hectare site at Reedy Creek, the new development would replace Boral’s existing quarry at West Burleigh and would provide the Gold Coast region with high grade construction materials.