The federal scientific committee that advises the government on water impacts of mining has slammed a proposal by a company owned by Clive Palmer to build a greenfield coal mine just 10km from the edge of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA).
The Central Queensland Coal Project in the Styx Basin was first proposed north west of Rockhampton about four years ago, but the company's latest Environmental Impact Assessment amendment has drawn an unusually withering response from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC).
In its response to the amendment, the IESC raises concerns including the likelihood the proposed 10mtpa thermal and coking coal mine would;
release pollutants into rivers and creeks that feed into the GBRWHA and an important fish breeding site;
drain creeks by up to 60 metres and dewater aquifers relied on by farmers;
physically remove more than eight kilometres of a local creek and;
threaten vulnerable arboreal animals like the koala and greater glider.
The IESC concluded that “the project presents very significant risks to nationally and internationally recognised assets with high ecological values, including the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) and the Broad Sound Fish Habitat Area downstream of the project”.
The IESC also found little could be done to mitigate the devastating impacts of the planned mine, stating, “Proposed mitigation options primarily entail offsetting residual impacts (e.g. for the 8.35 km of stream-length that will be removed) and are likely to be completely inadequate for this region because of its relatively undisturbed setting.”
Landholder Jacqueline McCamley, who owns “Tooloombah”, which is adjacent to the proposed mine site said, “Tooloombah would be unable to produce organic beef with coal mine dust polluting grazing pastures and our water.
“People all over the world are moving towards cleaner eating and living, and it’s not possible for us to meet this demand with a coal mine next door.
“Australia also needs to increase its food production, not reduce the amount of available prime grazing land for the sake of a temporary coal mine.”
President of the Environment Council of Central Queensland, Christine Carlisle said that Mr Palmer's coal project is ethically, environmentally and economically unsustainable.
“Countries such as China, Japan and South Korea have been major importers of Australian coal in the past, but have declared commitments to becoming carbon neutral by 2050/60 with consequent reduction in demand for coal. This project is destined to become a stranded asset,” she said.
“The case for reducing the mining and burning of fossil fuels is urgent because we have witnessed at first hand our drying landscapes and loss of our native species, habitat, and the human cost of bushfires. We don’t need any more coal mines.
“Corals on the Great Barrier Reef continue to bleach and die while sea water temperatures continue to rise. Mr Palmer should not be able to make a mess and then walk away while the rest of us carry the cost. The mine should be rejected.”
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said it was unusual for the IESC to be so critical of a planned project.
“The unprecedented severity of the IESC’s criticism of the Central Queensland Coal Project in the Styx Basin proposal clearly demonstrates just how destructive it would be,” she said.
“This is an incredibly dangerous proposal to build a mine just 10km from the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area that poses a massive pollution risk.
“Our Reef is far too precious to be put at the mercy of Clive Palmer.
“Mr Palmer’s companies have an appalling track record of planning environmentally insensitive coal mines in QLD, even though he’s yet to actually go ahead and build any of them.
“In response to this damning environmental assessment, the Palaszczuk and Morrison governments must stand up to Clive Palmer and reject this terrible proposal now.”