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Largest coal mine in Australia: federal government gives Carmichael go-ahead

 

Galilee Basin, Australia

The Galilee basin in central Queensland is the subject of nine planned mining projects. Photograph: Andrew Quilty/Greenpeace/AAP

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Largest coal mine in Australia: federal government gives Carmichael go-ahead” was written by Oliver Milman, for theguardian.com on Monday 28th July 2014 04.03 UTC

The Australian environment minister, Greg Hunt, has approved a $16.5bn resources project that will lead to the creation of the largest coal mine in Australia, and one of the largest in the world.

Hunt has imposed 36 conditions, primarily aimed at protecting groundwater, on the Carmichael coal mine and rail project, which will dig up and transport about 60m tonnes of coal a year for export.

The huge Carmichael project, overseen by the Indian mining company Adani, will consist of a network of open cut and underground mines in the Galilee Basin region of central Queensland.

This area is about seven times the size of Sydney harbour and will be the largest coal mine in Australia and possibly the world.

Coal will be taken via a new rail line to the port of Abbot Point, north of Bowen, where Adani already has approval to build a coal export terminal. Five million tonnes of seabed will be dug up and dumped within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in order to expand Abbot Point for these exports, primarily to India.

The Carmichael mine, which was given the green light by the Queensland government in May, has been fiercely opposed by environmentalists due to its potential impact upon the reef, groundwater at its site and its hefty carbon emissions.

Greenpeace has claimed coal from the mine will cause an additional 128m tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. By contrast, the Australian government’s proposed Direct Action climate scheme, which targets only domestic emissions, aims to reduce emissions by 131m tonnes each year.

Adani estimates the mine itself will produce about 3bn tonnes of CO2 emissions over its 60-year lifespan. This is due to “fugitive” emissions, which are released during the mining process.

The approval of the Carmichael mine is a major step in the opening of the vast, coal-rich Galilee Basin region. There are a total of nine mining projects planned for the area.

Hunt said the conditions he has imposed ensure Adani “meets the highest environmental standards and that all impacts, including cumulative impacts, are avoided, mitigated or offset”.

“The absolute strictest of conditions have been imposed to ensure the protection of the environment, with a specific focus on the protection of groundwater,” he said.

“I acknowledge the work of the previous state and federal ALP [Australian Labor Party] governments in advancing consideration of this project.”

Hunt said the project will have a value of $5bn a year over the next 60 years, adding $2.97bn to the Queensland economy a year over this period.

It is estimated the Carmichael mine will also create 2,475 construction jobs and a further 3,920 jobs once the project is operational in 2017.

Adani will be required to ensure at least 730 megalitres of water are returned to the environment every year for five years.

The company will also have to monitor the condition of groundwater, offset the impact of cleared habitat and assess the impact to threatened species. Conservationists have warned that critical habitat for the endangered black-throated finch will be bulldozed for the mine.

Greenpeace said Hunt has “laid out the red carpet for a coal company with a shocking track record to dig up the outback, dump on the Great Barrier Reef and fuel climate change.”

Adani has been fined in India for violating environmental conditions relating to a port development in Gujarat. An Indian government review found Adani’s failure to monitor groundwater for pollution was a “clear violation” of conditions. The company was also criticised for its destruction of mangroves.

Felicity Wishart, a campaigner at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the mine’s approval was “bad news for the Great Barrier Reef”.

 

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