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The Lock the Gate Alliance has slammed the Federal Government’s decision to approve another huge mega mine in the Galilee Basin saying the social and ecological impacts of the mine cannot be justified.

Central Queensland Coordinator for the Lock the Gate Alliance, Ellie Smith said “This mine will have unacceptable impacts on groundwater and the communities that depend on it and will cause the destruction of a privately owned conservation area, setting a dangerous and destructive precedent for the future.” 

“One has to ask what value landholders should put on a signed Conservation Agreement when it can be totally disregarded by both the Queensland and Federal Governments”

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has imposed some 49 conditions on the mine but the Alliance says “the environmental impact assessment process is broken, if the companies are not made to assess the full impact of their projects before being given an approval” 

“This is a case of the Government ensuring regulatory certainty for mining companies over the basic livelihoods of people and protection of the environment”.

Tom Crothers is the former General Manager for Water Allocation and Planning in the Department of Environment and Resource Management. He has been investigating the water impacts of mining in the Galilee Basin to try to ensure proper cumulative impact assessments are done and landholder’s water is protected.

“The three mines now approved by the State and Federal Governments are projected to extract 367 billion litres of water from the Galilee Basin aquifers over their mine life. This is equivalent to 190 years of livestock and domestic water supplies for the pastoral properties in the proposed mine lease areas of the Basin.”

“It’s clear that Minister Hunt has given scant consideration to the cumulative take of groundwater by these three mines on the future access to water by the local landholders” he said.

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In response to the commonwealth EIS for the mine, released by Waratah Coal in September, Lock the Gate Alliance wrote to the Minister and his department draw their attention to substantial problems with the environmental impacts assessment provided to the commonwealth, and the unacceptable impacts of the mine itself. 

In summary these concerns were:

  • The EIS does not adequately address the cumulative impact of this and adjacent projects on groundwater resources. The mine is predicted to extract an average of 25.7 GL/annum from local aquifers over a period of 35 years and will have impacts extending 20km from the mine and for up to 200 years after mining.
  • The EIS does not adequately address the impact of this project on surface water, particularly the cumulative impact of four very large mines in close proximity, impacting on and diverting the same creeks and tributaries to the Belyando River.
  • The EIS fails to assess the impact of the mine on Koalas, despite the species being listed as vulnerable federally last year. In this respect, the EIS conforms to the letter, but not the spirit of the law, and given that over 50,000 hectares of remanent woodland is earmarked for clearing in the Desert Uplands bioregion for Galilee Basin coal mines, it is clear that a more thorough cumulative impact assessment for threatened species, including the koala, is called for.
  • By clearing one half and undermining the other half of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge, the mine will reduce the area of a very poorly protected bioregion, the Desert Uplands, protected in the National Reserve System by between 5-10%.
  • The mine will have unacceptable impacts on the Black-throated finch (southern subspecies) and the proponent has failed to conduct surveys for this species in line with clear requirements set out by the Department. 

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