The development of coal deposits in the Galilee Basin is set to receive a major boost from the construction of a $2.2 billion railway line to the Abbot Point port.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has given his approval to the North Galilee Basin Rail project that will connect the Carmichael Coal Mine to the port of Abbot Point.
Indian mining company Adani plans for the $2.2 billion rail project to run 310 kilometres in total along a 100 metre-wide corridor, possessing an annual carrying capacity of 100-million tonnes.
Hunt's approval is subject to 23 conditions, including the development of a biodiversity offset strategy that is submitted at least two months prior to the start of construction work, disturbance limits with respect to endangered species in the area, the use of fauna spotters prior to and during the clearance of land, as well as the online release of a compliance report by Adani once a year.
Adani must commence work on the project within five years, after which point it must obtain further written approval from the Environment Minister.
The Queensland government expects the construction phase of the project to bring nearly $800 million to the regional economy, while the Federal Government foresees employment benefits to the tune of around 2,000 construction jobs as well as 270 operational jobs.
In addition to the immediate economic benefits for the region, the project will give a major boost to the development of coal resources within Queensland's Galilee Basin. The NGBR Project will be a multi-user, greenfield standard gauge rail line, providing a shorter path to Abbot Point than the existing route which runs via Moranbah and is a narrow gauge system.
The Galilee Basin is one of Australia's largest unexploited mining areas, with Waratah Coal announcing the discovery of 4,400 million tonnes of coal in the region in 2008.
Adani's $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine obtained environmental approvals from Hunt in July of this year, and is expected to become the largest coal mine in Australia with an annual output of 60 million tonnes. Over a projected operating life of approximately 90 years the port is expected to extract 4 billion tonnes of coal, most of which will be shipped to India via Abbot Point.
The project has been fraught with controversy, however, meeting with strenuous opposition from both local owners and environmental advocates.
Greens groups are opposed to the mining project on multiple grounds, including its immediate impact on local ecosystems and groundwater, the contribution made by coal to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as potential damage to the Great Barrier Reef caused by the expansion of the Abbot Point port.
Deutsche Bank and HSBC announced earlier this year that they would refuse to fund expansions to the Abbot Point port on environmental grounds.
The Carmichael mine is just one of a raft of proposed coal projects in the Galilee Basin that could benefit from the NGBR project, with other developments including Hancock Coal and GVK's Alpha Coal Project and Clive Palmer's China First mine.