Sydney-based Whitehaven Coal’s first foray into Queensland has revealed how little the repeat environmental offender knows or cares about the north, according to a Lock the Gate Alliance submission in response to the company’s Winchester South proposal.
Among the Alliance’s major concerns, based on Whitehaven’s own Environmental Impact Statement, are:
Whitehaven’s “wet season” modelling was conducted at the beginning of the dry season in May when only 4mm fell at Moranbah Airport that month and the region was in drought.
There are 83 water bores in the vicinity of the mine and the project will leave behind 4 unfilled final voids that will drain groundwater in perpetuity.
It would threaten at least 16 important or threatened animals, plants, and ecosystems including the Koala, Greater Glider, Squatter Pigeon and Ornamental Snake.
The project represents a serious pollution risk to the Isaac River with mine-affected wastewater to be directly discharged into the river.
The mine would be responsible for at least 547 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Lock the Gate Alliance's submission was not the only one to raise significant concerns related to the proposal, with the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development also critical of Whitehaven's plan.
Among the issues the IESC raised was, "Four residual voids will remain and sit just outside the mapped floodplain of the Isaac River. The water in these residual voids will become hypersaline, leading to potential impacts on the surrounding groundwater system (e.g., the alluvium), the Isaac River and biota within and near the residual voids."
LTGA Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said based on Whitehaven’s EIS, the company planned on causing the same pollution and destruction in Queensland as it had at its mines in NSW.
“Whitehaven Coal is a repeat environmental offender, having racked up 35 fines and sentences over its 10 years of operation in NSW," she said.
“Some of the offences committed by Whitehaven include illegal land clearing, polluting water sources, and stealing more than one billion litres of water at its Maules Creek mine during the height of the drought (see here for a full list of crimes committed by Whitehaven in NSW).
“Its Winchester South EIS gives us no reason to believe Whitehaven plans on operating any differently north of the border.
“This EIS should be thrown in the bin based purely on the fact Whitehaven is trying to argue it conducted robust wet season monitoring at the beginning of the dry season and during a drought.
“As anyone who has spent any time in the tropics knows, wet seasons are wildly unpredictable. Basing the construction of a mammoth coal mine off incomplete data is a recipe for disaster.
“The Scope 1 emissions of 14.2Mt alone will also make it almost impossible for the Queensland Government to meet its 30% greenhouse emissions reduction target by 2030.
“This mine is simply madness at a time when the International Energy Agency has said that there is no need for new or expanded coal approvals globally as the world moves to cleaner alternative energy sources*.”
*IEA quote: "No new coal mines or extensions of existing ones are needed in the NZE as coal demand declines precipitously. Demand for coking coal falls at a slightly slower rate than for steam coal, but existing sources of production are sufficient to cover demand through to 2050." (source pp 103)