Lock the Gate Alliance analysis has revealed Clive Palmer’s Galilee Coal Project mega mine would extract an estimated 780 billion litres of groundwater during its 30 year lifespan - more than one and a half times the amount of water in Sydney Harbour.
Waratah Coal last month applied for a mining licence for the project, formerly known as China First.
It was the company’s first move in relation to the mine in six years, with federal approval granted in 2013.
If it goes ahead, the mine would also produce 40 million tonnes of thermal coal per annum and destroy much of the nearly 8000 hectare Bimblebox Nature Refuge, which protects important habitats in Central Queensland’s Eastern Desert uplands region. Owners of the Bimblebox Refuge announced a legal challenge to the mine on Monday.
Water expert Tom Crothers said the amount of groundwater to be pumped out for mine dewatering operations was huge.
“A water take of this scale would have an irreparable impact on those aquifers beneath the Galilee Basin,” he said.
“This would have a significant impact on local farmers and communities who rely on these groundwater resources for their livestock and domestic supplies – particularly during drought conditions.
“Worryingly, the Galilee Coal Project is just one of many more potential mega mines planned for the Galilee.
“Combined, they will drain a mammoth amount of water from beneath the basin.”
Late last year, the Galilee Subregion Bioregional Assessment looked at seven of the proposed coal mines in the basin, and concluded their cumulative water impacts would likely affect up to 6,285 kilometres of Queensland streams, and groundwater across 1.4 million hectares.
Galilee Basin landholder Bruce Currie said local graziers were under threat on multiple fronts.
“First there was Adani, which we are still battling tooth and nail,” he said.
“Now we are forced to fight Clive Palmer and his mega mine.
“We strongly object to the Galilee Basin being opened up for get-rich quick polluting thermal coal at the expense of communities, regional towns and graziers, many who have farmed on their properties for generations.
“The Palaszczuk Government must reject this mining licence application and send Clive and his mine packing.
“This is an environmental crime against humanity.”
Clive Palmer’s mine looks likely to benefit from a special loophole in mining laws which has recently been exposed.
A recent Court of Appeals decision concerning the unrelated New Acland Stage 3 Coal Mine near Toowoomba found groundwater impacts of mines could not be considered by the Land Court in certain cases, including older mining applications like the Waratah Coal proposal.
This means that currently any objection or Land Court challenge to the Waratah Coal project will not be able to consider issues related to the amount of groundwater drawdown it will cause.
1. SOURCE: Paragraph 693 on page 101 of Attachment A of then Minister Hunt’s Recommendation Report outlines that the Waratah SEIS estimates mine inflows of 23.1 GL/annum to the underground mines and 2.6 GL/annum to the open cut mines and that mine inflows are expected to average 26 GL/annum over the 30 years of proposed mining. This indicates a groundwater extraction figure of 780 GL for the 30 year life of this project.