The Australian Conservation Foundation and Mackay Conservation Group have begun legal proceedings in the Queensland Land Court, seeking the refusal of Whitehaven Coal’s Winchester South thermal and metallurgical coal mine, proposed for the Bowen Basin. 

The environment groups will argue the court should recommend no mining lease or environmental authority be granted for the Winchester South project – Australia’s largest proposed new coal project – due to its significant environmental and human rights impacts.  

If it goes ahead the mine would likely: 

  • Extract up to 17 million tonnes of thermal and metallurgical coal each year for 28 years, generating at least 583 million tonnes of climate pollution – more than the entire annual emissions of Australia. (Much of the Winchester coal would be burnt overseas but would still contribute to global warming impacts here in Australia.) 
  • Spew huge volumes of super-warming, unchecked methane into the air, adding to the already severely underreported methane coming from the Bowen Basin.  
  • Destroy at least 2,000 hectares of wildlife habitat that is home to endangered and threatened species including koalas (destroying 242 football fields of koala habitat), the greater glider, the Australian painted snipe, the ornamental snake and squatter pigeon. (Whitehaven plans to dig six huge mine pits.) 
  • Have an unacceptable impact on water resources, including the Isaac floodplain and groundwater aquifers. 
  • Impact human rights due to the climate consequences on generations of Queenslanders. 

The groups believe Whitehaven’s environmental history makes it an unsuitable company to operate this mine. 

“This coal mine would be a climate disaster, generating more pollution over its lifetime than every source in Australia does in a year,” said ACF’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy. 

“With the Great Barrier Reef in the midst of yet another serious mass coral bleaching event, the stakes for Queensland and Australia are higher than ever. 

“Approving a coal mine that produces coal to be burnt through to 2055 is reckless and inappropriate at a time when Australia – and the world – needs to cut emissions quickly.  

“This climate wrecking project will destroy the habitats of precious animals, including the endangered greater glider. We cannot stand by and allow that to happen. 

“Whitehaven has a history of breaching environmental regulations and a record of drastically underestimating emissions from its coal mines.  

“At its Maules Creek coal mine, reported emissions were four times what Whitehaven estimated in its documentation when seeking government approval. At the Narrabri coal mine, Whitehaven’s actual emissions were more than twice what it officially estimated. 

“Rather than more coal and gas, Australia needs more clean renewable energy.” 

Imogen Lindenberg, climate campaigner from Mackay Conservation Group, said: “Keeping coal in the ground today will protect lives, livelihoods and nature for generations to come. 

“There’s no amount of money that will be able to restore the damage this mine will do to our groundwater, the reef or the ongoing negative impact it will have on our region.” 

ACF and MCG will be represented in court by the Environmental Defenders Office. 

EDO Managing Lawyer Revel Pointon said: “The EDO is proud to represent our clients, ACF and MCG, to ensure they can have their concerns about the significant impacts of this large-scale coal mine properly heard before an independent court.  

“Our clients will argue the impact assessment put forward by Whitehaven was inadequate and the impacts threatened to the climate, environment and human rights are unacceptable and should not be approved.” 

Media contact: James Tremain | 0419 272 254