The Queensland Government quietly approved a new coal mine in Central Queensland that will clear 770 hectares of koala habitat, without requiring an Environmental Impact Statement.
The Vulcan South coal mine in the Bowen Basin south west of Mackay is one of several new coal mine proposals in Queensland that the Miles Government is not requiring Environmental Impact Statements for, because they fall marginally short of the apparently arbitrary threshold that triggers the EIS process.
It’s the first coal mine to be approved in Queensland since Steven Miles became premier. The decision (available here) was only emailed to people or groups who made submissions in response to the project - it has not yet been published online.
Vitrinite plans to mine 13.5 million tonnes of coal over a nine year period at a rate of 1.95 million tonnes of coal each year, just below the two million tonnes per annum production rate that triggers the requirement for an EIS.
As well as clearing 770ha of endangered koala habitat, Vitrinite will also clear 39 ha of endangered greater glider habitat, 36 ha of vulnerable glossy black cockatoo habitat, and 1024 ha of vulnerable squatter pigeon habitat for this coal mine (See page 43 of Draft EA Permit).
Vulcan South is also just one part of a much larger coal project, which Vitrinite has split into three. Work is already underway on the nearby associated mine known as “Jupiter”, while the Independent Expert Scientific Committee recently criticised Vitrinite for failing to provide enough environmental data for the second component - a coal handling facility, rail transportation and an additional pit.
Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland director Dr Coral Rowston said, “This is a terrible outcome for Queensland’s koalas and climate. The Queensland Government’s approval of the Vulcan South coal mine will fast track the decline of Central Queensland’s already struggling koala population and make climate change worse.
“The large area of habitat to be lost to the coal project undermines efforts to protect koala habitat elsewhere and the project will exacerbate climate change, a key threat to the koala.
“This coal mine will also place other threatened species who call the local area home, like the greater glider and glossy black cockatoo, under even more pressure.
“The approval of a climate wrecking coal mine that plans to wipe out more than 300 Gabba sized stadiums of koala habitat is an absolute disaster for Queensland’s iconic species."
Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Ellen Roberts said, “This is a reckless decision by the Queensland Government, but the Vulcan South coal mine still needs approvals under federal environment laws before it can proceed. We're calling on Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to make good on her commitment to no new extinctions. She can help protect the endangered koala and greater glider by refusing the Vulcan South coal mine and protecting this important area of Central Queensland habitat.”
Vulcan South is the first new coal mine to be approved since Steven Miles became premier, however it is unlikely to be the last, with Whitehaven’s Winchester South expected to be approved next month after it received the coordinator general’s go ahead last year.