The Queensland coal mine faces its final obstacle with approval from the federal government.
The state of Queensland has given the green light to a massive coal mine project that has drawn criticism from environmentalists for its potential harm to the human rights of Queensland residents.
The project is currently seeking federal approval and could potentially be the largest coal mine approved since the Albanese government took office.
Whitehaven’s Winchester South coalmine would be located in the state’s Bowen Basin, near the town of Moranbah, and mine an estimated 15m tonnes of thermal and metallurgical coal each year for 28 years.
The coordinator general of Queensland proposed the approval of the mine in the previous year, even though acknowledging that it could potentially restrict human rights due to potential climate change effects resulting from the project.
Based on the environmental impact report from the company, the undertaking would add 583 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing the annual emissions of Australia. This includes 14.2 million tons of emissions on-site and 567 million tons of scope three emissions generated when the coal is burned overseas. Around 58% of the mined coal is intended for the production of steel, while the remaining 42% would be exported to Asian nations for electricity generation.
The proposed mine plans to remove 2,000 hectares of land southeast of Moranbah, which is home to endangered and threatened species like koalas, the Australian painted snipe, the ornamental snake, and the squatter pigeon. Additionally, the state’s emissions reduction goal has been increased to 75% by 2035, making it one of the most ambitious targets in the country.
According to Dr. Coral Rowston, the head of Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland, it is paradoxical for the Queensland government to give the green light to the mine shortly after increasing its goals for reducing emissions.
She stated that the coalmine at Winchester South is a danger to ecosystems and the human rights of Queenslanders.
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Hopefully, Tanya Plibersek, the federal environment minister, will be able to rectify the misguided decision of the Miles government and refuse to approve this coalmine that will harm koalas and contribute to climate change.
During a media club event in Queensland on Tuesday, Miles was questioned about the likelihood of the state meeting its emissions goals if Winchester South and Vulcan South coal mines were both approved this year.
Miles stated that he would establish a law for the emissions goal, and the state would still be responsible for the emissions generated in Queensland.
The majority of coal in Queensland is used for coking coal, which is necessary for making steel. While alternatives for steelmaking may be available in the future, the focus currently needs to be on incorporating wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, and other necessary elements for this transition.
“Our resources industry will continue to have a role.”
According to Dave Copeman, the director of the Queensland Conservation Council, the green light for the Winchester South mine is a regrettable event for Queensland.
He implored the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, to reject its operation.
Copeman stated that this is the largest new coalmine awaiting approval in Australia.
Once the open cut mine begins extracting coal, it will be too late to mitigate the continuous release of methane into the atmosphere. This will ultimately accelerate the effects of climate change for generations to come.
A representative from the Department of Environment has verified that the mine has received approval.
They stated that the project underwent a thorough evaluation process, conducted by the coordinator general. In November 2023, the coordinator general issued an evaluation report which suggested that the project should move forward with the conditions and recommendations outlined in the report.
“This EA application underwent a public notification process and the department received five submissions, all of which were taken into account during the assessment.”
I have reached out to Whitehaven Coal for a response, as stated by Guardian Australia.
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens party stated that the coalmine was a challenge for the federal environment minister, following the approval of the project by the Queensland government.
She stated, “We require updated environmental regulations that prevent the establishment of new coal mines that continue to harm our climate and environment. This is why the Greens are advocating for a climate trigger to evaluate projects.”
“We urge the government to work with us so coalmines like this are stopped in their tracks.”