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Tanya Plibersek has been encouraged to prevent the approval of a coal mine in Queensland that would harm the environment and destroy koala habitats.
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Tanya Plibersek has been encouraged to prevent the approval of a coal mine in Queensland that would harm the environment and destroy koala habitats.

Conservationists are calling on the national government to prevent the establishment of a coal mine in central Queensland, which would result in the destruction of hundreds of hectares of koala habitat.

Earlier this month, the Queensland government gave the green light to the Vulcan South coalmine in the Bowen Basin without mandating an environmental impact statement (EIS).

However, the project requires the authorization of the federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, before proceeding.

If the mining project of Vitrinite is ultimately approved, the company will receive authorization to remove 770 hectares of koala habitat, 39 hectares of greater glider habitat, 36 hectares of vulnerable glossy black cockatoo habitat, and 1,024 hectares of vulnerable squatter pigeon habitat.

In 2022, the koala was classified as endangered by the federal government due to a decrease in population caused by land clearing and wildfires. According to data from 2022, over 90,000 hectares of koala habitat in Queensland was cleared for beef production.

The mine is among a few programs that has managed to bypass the EIS stipulation due to its annual output being below 2 million tonnes.

Vitrinite plans to extract 1.95 million tonnes of coal annually or a total of 13.5 million tonnes over a span of nine years.

The company has received approval for a neighboring mine, named Vulcan, which is set to begin production in March 2022 and yield 1.95 million tonnes annually.

Dr. Coral Rowston, the head of Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland, urged Plibersek to exceed the efforts of the Queensland government and reject the approval of Vulcan South.

“The approval of a climate-wrecking coalmine that plans to wipe out more than 300 Gabba-sized football stadiums of koala habitat is an absolute disaster for Queensland’s iconic species,” Rowston said.

Tanya Plibersek, the federal environment minister, has the power and responsibility to fulfill her promise of preventing any new extinctions. This can be achieved by rejecting the Vulcan South coalmine and safeguarding the significant koala habitat in central Queensland.

Federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek with glossy black cockatoo in a courtyard of Parliament House in Canberra on 7 September 2023.View image in fullscreen

The local area’s threatened species, such as the greater glider and glossy black cockatoo, will face increased pressure due to the addition of this coalmine.

According to Dave Copeman, the head of Queensland Conservation Council, approval for the mine would be unfavorable in terms of both climate and biodiversity.

He stated that this mine was given the go-ahead due to a loophole in the Queensland Environmental Protection Act, which environmental groups have been urging the government to close for a long time.

This matter has been referred to Minister Plibersek at the federal level, and we are urging the minister to deny the [application]. This action would cause irreparable harm to the habitats of endangered species such as koalas and greater gliders.

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The office of Plibersek stated that the minister is not permitted to provide comments on pending decisions.

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The Vulcan South coalmine proposal will be subjected to a thorough and scientific evaluation to determine its potential effects on matters protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, according to a spokesperson from the department.

Approval will only be granted if steps are taken to avoid, lessen, and monitor any negative effects on matters that are safeguarded by the EPBC Act. These actions may be included as enforceable conditions for approval.

The Queensland government recently approved Vulcan South, the first new coalmine under Premier Steven Miles. The Winchester South coalmine, owned by Whitehaven, is also expected to receive approval from the coordinator general, allowing for production of up to 17 million tonnes annually.

Last year, Miles took action on a major concern of the environmental movement by implementing a ban on new oil and gas projects in the Lake Eyre Basin shortly after being inaugurated.

As the new Queensland premier, he announced during his initial address that the state’s emissions reduction goal will be increased to 75% by 2035, which is one of the most ambitious targets in the nation.

Guardian Australia reached out to the Queensland premier for a statement, but a spokesperson from the environment department replied to the inquiry.

The representative stated that each suggested project is evaluated individually and undergoes a thorough environmental assessment to ensure compliance with legal standards, regardless of whether an Environmental Impact Statement is necessary or not.

They stated that measures have been implemented to reduce the effects on endangered species like koalas.

According to the environmental authority application for the Vulcan South project, extra requirements have been added to reduce harm to habitat of endangered species and to ensure that all disturbed habitat is restored after the project is finished.

They stated that the EA approval mandates the holder to create and execute a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, taking into account the projected emissions for the duration of the project.

I reached out to Vitrinite for a statement, as reported by Guardian Australia.

Source: theguardian.com