Lock the Gate Alliance and Central Queensland conservationists have condemned the recommendation today that Whitehaven’s Winchester South mega coal mine should be approved.
The project will mine 17 million tonnes of thermal and metallurgical coal per annum for 28 years. It will be responsible for 583 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution - more than the entire annual GHG emissions of Australia - including 14.2 million tonnes of on site, or scope 1, emissions.
The Queensland Coordinator General’s decision to recommend approval of the mine comes after the Land Court ruled against Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal project, due in part to that mine’s climate change impacts (including scope 3 emissions) and human rights impacts.
Winchester South would also be responsible for a host of direct environmental impacts including:
Put already threatened species including the koala, ornamental snake, and squatter pigeon at further risk by clearing at least 2000 hectares of habitat. The coordinator general’s assessment identified more koala habitat than Whitehaven originally noted.
Drain local groundwater at an average of 155 million litres each year, with a potential maximum rate of 280 million litres each year into the mine pits.
Leave three un-rehabilitated pit voids (giant holes where mining has occurred) at the end of the mine's life. These pits will continue to drain water from the surrounding area and concentrate heavy metals and salts in the voids.
Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland director Dr Coral Rowston said, “The Queensland Palaszczuk Government has thrown more fuel on the fire as the climate crisis intensifies and Queensland communities suffer from increasingly dangerous extreme weather events. This is the legacy this government will leave.
“The Palaszczuk Government tries to talk the talk on climate but it is charging head on into climate chaos.
“Winchester South will be responsible for more than half a billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This project alone will significantly contribute to and worsen the climate crisis.
“The Coordinator General’s report noted Whitehaven underestimated the amount of koala habitat Winchester South would destroy (see page 163), but instead of knocking back the project, the CG has passed the buck on to the Federal Government. It’s now up to Minister Plibersek to decide whether the important koala habitat on site will be destroyed.
“While today’s Coordinator General recommendation is a setback, we will not give up. We must stop this mine from ever being built - humanity’s future depends on it.
“Our hope now lies with the Albanese Government making good on its rhetoric on climate action and protection of threatened wildlife and ecosystems. Australia will be a laughing stock at the upcoming COP28 if governments here continue to open up huge, high CO2 emitting coal and gas projects.”
Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Ellen Roberts said, “The Land Court decided new coal mines violated the rights of young people because of the threat of climate change. The Palaszczuk Government has decided today the youth of Queensland don’t deserve a liveable future.
Ms Roberts said Whitehaven was a recalcitrant environmental vandal in NSW where it operates numerous coal mines already, and there was no reason to expect it would behave any differently in Queensland.
“Whitehaven’s criminal rap sheet is many pages long. It was found guilty of stealing water at the height of the worst drought in living memory, it has illegally cleared bushland, contaminated local waterways, and disturbed Aboriginal artefacts.
“Whitehaven sees breaking the law as part of doing business in NSW, and we have no reason to believe it will behave any differently in Queensland.”
Coal mined at Winchester South is roughly 40 per cent thermal coal.