The Alpha Coal project in central Queensland. Green groups are threatening legal action action to prevent the nearby Kevin's Corner mine, which would be the largest in Australia, from going ahead. Photo: Andrew Quilty / AAP

3 November 2013 (AAP) – The federal government has approved a massive coal mining project in central Queensland that will be the largest in the country.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved the 37,380 hectare Kevin's Corner project on Friday.

The mine, to be operated by a joint India-Australia consortium, GVK-Hancock, is the first to be approved since the introduction of a new water trigger rule by the previous federal government.

Greenpeace claims Kevin's Corner will use more than nine billion litres of water a year and the Lock the Gate Alliance says more information on its impact on Galilee Basin groundwater is needed.

Water science experts urged Mr Hunt to reject any mining proposals that would adversely impact water supplies.

They said mining and coal seam gas extraction could damage aquifers, rivers, and water catchments.

Queensland Resources Council acting chief executive Greg Lane said Kevin's Corner stood to not only improve living standards for millions of people in India, but also open up one of the world's most exciting new coal provinces.

"GVK is to be congratulated for its commitment to this project in the toughest operating environment that the Queensland coal industry has faced this century," he said in a statement.

Largest coal mine approved in Queensland

By Oliver Milman
3 November 2013

( – Environmentalists have threatened legal action to halt what is set to be Australia’s largest coalmine, claiming the federal government has overturned long-standing conservation principles by approving it.

The Kevin’s Corner mine has been approved by Greg Hunt, the federal environment minister, however, the approval is subject to more than 70 conditions.

Some of these conditions are designed to protect threatened species such as the black-throated finch, red goshawk and yakka skink.

Indian resources firm GVK, which will operate the mine, is also required to submit a water monitoring and management plan, which will help “establish baseline data for water quality”. This study will have to be peer reviewed and approved by Hunt.

GVK said the mine, located near the Queensland town of Alpha, is expected to last for at least 30 years, producing up to 30m tonnes of thermal coal a year for export. Mining magnate Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting sold its stake in the project in 2011.

Carbon emissions from coal mined at Kevin’s Corner are estimated at 58m tonnes a year – more than the entire annual emissions of Denmark. Construction is set to start in 2015, with the first coal mined in 2018.

GVK said in a statement: “In a timely and considered decision, the minister finely balanced the protection of environment with the need for economic investment and job creation.”

But opponents of the mine claim Hunt’s approval fails to protect the region’s groundwater and may be challenged in the courts.

Drew Hutton, president of anti-mining group Lock the Gate, told Guardian Australia: “We will certainly be reviewing our legal options on this. We are bitterly disappointed because this mine will have an enormous impact on the Great Artesian Basin.

“This has stood the whole approval system on its head. Once upon the time you had to show the impacts in order to get approval, but now you get approval and then work out exactly what damage it’ll do to the environment. We no longer have the precautionary principle in place in the whole approvals process.”

Hutton said Hunt’s decision showed that the government is disregarding the new “water trigger” provision in federal environment legislation, which demands that the environment minister assess any project that could impact water quality.

A coalition of six environmental and community groups are already waging a legal battle against the Rinehart part-owned Alpha coalmine, which would adjoin Kevin’s Corner. […]

The Kevin’s Corner and Alpha coalmines are two of a series of developments planned for the coal-rich Galilee basin area of central Queensland.

The mines will, if completed, transport coal to the coast, where they will be shipped for export markets, primarily in China and India. Several port expansions are planned to facilitate this, although BHP has pulled out of one project amid concerns that Queensland already has a surplus of port capacity.

On Friday, a federal government strategic analysis of the Great Barrier Reef called for a more holistic approach to the health of the ecosystem by considering the overall impact of coastline development.

The report also stated that climate change was “the most serious long-term risk” facing the reef.

“Even a two-degree celsius rise would be a very dangerous level of warming for coral reef ecosystems, including the Great Barrier Reef, and the people who derive benefits them,” it stated. “To ensure the reef remains a coral-dominated system, the latest science indicates global average temperature rise would have to be limited to 1.2 degrees celsius”

Lock the Gate’s Hutton said the government’s approach to approving massive coalmines runs contrary to this warning.

“It’s bordering on hypocrisy, really,” he said. “The Abbott government says it still recognises the link to climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gases. They are prepared to make feel-good statements about the reef but not the hard decisions about resource development.” [more]

 Green groups explore legal action to halt massive Queensland coalmine



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