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Carbon bomb for carbon deal: Inland rail must not be coal-laden bargaining chip in Coalition climate negotiations

Lock the Gate Alliance is warning against any net-zero carbon emissions deal the Coalition reaches that involves opening up a new, taxpayer subsidised coal basin via the heavily criticised Inland Rail project, that would turbo-charge climate change and hurt farmers.

Over recent weeks, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has repeatedly called for the rail line to be extended to Gladstone, taking it close to undeveloped coal projects near Wandoan and Taroom in the Western Surat Basin. The Morrison Government has already allocated $10 million for a feasibility study into the extension.

Large proposed coal projects in the area like Glencore’s 22Mtpa coal project at Wandoan have been discussed for years, but have not been developed due primarily to a lack of infrastructure and the additional costs required if companies wanted to export the coal.

pre feasibility study has demonstrated that if this rail line was built, it would “unlock coal reserves in the Surat Basin and offer an alternative and more efficient access to export coal markets”.

The nine new coal mines that would benefit from the rail line, if built, would be responsible for 67 million tonnes of thermal coal per annum at a time when urgent action to mitigate global warming is required (see Appendix A of pre-feasibility study for list of projects)

The emissions from these  mines would be huge - amounting to 160Mt CO2e per annum - which is almost a third of Australia’s total carbon emissions (Calculated using the National Greenhouse Accounts Factors).

Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said, "Using climate negotiations to divert the Inland Rail as a means to dig new coal mines is disgraceful. 

“Opening a massive new thermal coal basin will effectively doom any net-zero carbon emissions commitment from the outset - it would expose Coalition climate policy as nothing but a giant con job.    

"It will also be a major waste of taxpayer funds - public money shouldn’t be blown on coal projects that will be unviable in the near term as customer countries stop burning coal.”

Richard Moffat is a Taroom grazier and former Wandoan grazier, whose property is partially covered by a coal lease owned by North Surat Coal, a subsidiary of New Hope.

The company has just completed ten exploratory drill holes on his farm, however with no current way to transport the coal to port, Mr Moffat believes the drilling is so the company abides by its lease conditions.

“We are at the frontline of the coal industry," he said.

"They want to open-cut mine on my land. Our country is prime grazing, cattle fattening land, and there’s no way of making any more of it.

“I’ve been to the New Hope rehabilitation site at New Acland. They can make the country pretty, but they can’t put the productivity back into the grass that was there before they dug it up. That’s our beef with them, because we know that will happen here if they mine.”

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