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Peabody prepares to fire up the bulldozers as Plibersek mulls humbugging koalas, greater gliders

Lock the Gate Alliance is calling on Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to reject outright  multinational coal giant Peabody’s plan to clear 220 hectares of koala and greater glider habitat for an expansion of the Coppabella Coal Mine, in Central Queensland.

Peabody’s “Humbug Gully” project would also divert a creek that ultimately flows into the Great Barrier Reef catchment area, destroying valuable riparian vegetation, and increasing the amount of sediment pollution.

While Peabody does not disclose the amount of coal it plans to mine, the expansion would increase the size of the mine by more than 500 hectares.

Peabody’s terrestrial ecology report notes surveyors observed nine koalas and 16 greater gliders in the area that would be cleared for the mine. Images of a koala, a greater glider, and an ornamental snake, observed in the area that would be bulldozed, were included in its report. See attachment G.

The public submission period for referral of the project under federal environment laws ends today (Monday July 8), prompting a government decision about whether the project should be rejected outright or allowed to proceed to the assessment stage. Lock the Gate’s full submission is available here.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Dr Claire Gronow said, “Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has a duty to protect endangered species like the koala and greater glider from habitat destruction.  Peabody’s own ecological report concludes that significant impacts on koalas and greater gliders are likely.  

“Tanya Plibersek is well within her legal rights as environment minister to reject this project as clearly unacceptable before it enters the assessment process because of the massive impact on two much-loved endangered species.

“As much as coal companies want biodiversity offsets to work, they simply don’t. Nothing can replace this habitat which, as Peabody’s own report shows, is a haven for endangered koalas and greater gliders.

“The Albanese Government has so far refused to introduce a climate trigger when assessing new fossil fuel projects, but that should not stop Minister Plibersek rejecting Peabody’s habitat-clearing coal expansion based on its unacceptable direct impacts alone.”

Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Ellen Roberts said, “Not only is this a disaster for koalas and greater gliders, but only last year, UNESCO warned that global heating caused by fossil fuels and worsening local water quality threatened the existence of the Great Barrier Reef. Peabody’s expansion would damage the reef on both these fronts.”

Peabody’s Humbug Gully expansion project comes shortly after an expert CQ University study found that koala habitat covered one third of coal mining leases in the Bowen Basin.

It also comes a month after more than 50 community groups wrote to Tanya Plibersek, calling on the minister to prioritise koala habitat over fossil fuel projects.

Late last month, Minister Plibersek gave Gina Rinehart-backed Senex Energy approvals to develop a gas project and associated pipelines in valuable koala habitat.


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