Minister for Environment Greg Hunt on Monday said he had given approval for another coal mine, set to be the largest in Australia, and one of the largest in the world.
Its plans include six open cut pits and five underground mines with a total area of 28,000 hectares, five times the area of Sydney Harbour, as well as pulling billions of litres of water every year from local rivers and aquifers.
Carmichael Coal Mine project and Rail Infrastructure project has been approved subject to 36 ‘strict’ conditions with the highest priority being the environment and more specifically the protection of groundwater, Hunt said.
The Minister’s office assured the general public that “a rigorous, open and thorough environmental assessment process was undertaken to take account of the public interest in the project.”
The project will have a resource value of $5 billion per annum and at full export capacity, is expected to contribute almost $930 million to the Mackay region’s gross regional product and $2.97 billion to the Queensland economy, over its lifetime of 60 years.
Adani is proposing to develop a 60 million tonnes per annum thermal coal mine in the north Galilee Basin, approximately 160 kilometres north-west of the town of Clermont, Central Queensland, with plans to export the majority of product to India.
All coal will be railed via a privately owned rail line connecting to the existing Aurizon rail infrastructure near Moranbah, and shipped through coal terminal facilities at the Port of Abbot Point and/or the Port of Hay Point.
To proceed however, those rail projects and the port facilities need to be financed, and there is growing doubt that banks will come to the party, because of the risk of stranded assets in a carbon constrained world.
Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia, for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), said he was not surprised by the approval.
“I never expected Hunt to go against Premier Newman nor PM Abbott’s desire to promote foreign firms trying to sustain Australia’s coal industry.
“Ironically, should the Galilee proceed, it will actually accelerate the longer term destruction of our coal export industry by dramatically further expanding the capital invested whilst at the same time taking coal prices globally down another 10-20% – hence further squeezing sector profit margins that are already down to zero, as Peabody reported last week.”
“These are stranded assets in the making.
The Australian Conservation Foundation said the approval is bad news for water resources, wildlife and the global effort to tackle climate change.
The foundation said the mine will take 297 billion litres from underground aquifers, destroy a significant proportion of the remaining habitat of the endangered black-throated finch and the coal will be shipped through the Great Barrier Reef, where dredging (said to be three million cubic meters) for a new coal export terminal will damage coral and harm marine life.
Australian Greens environment spokesperson, Senator Larissa Waters, “history will look back on the Abbott Government’s decision today as an act of climate criminality.”
“Off the back of repealing effective action on climate change, the Abbott Government has ticked off on a proposal for Australia’s biggest coal mine to cook the planet and turn our Reef into a super highway for coal ships.”
Adani is currently facing multi-million dollar fines in India for violating environmental clearances and bypassing approval procedures such as dumping and destroying conservation zones and Senator Waters asks, “Why take the risk with our climate and Great Barrier Reef?”
“Australia should be leading the way on renewable energy rather than condemning India to worse air quality and subjecting the world to more extreme weather disasters,” Senator Waters said.