Community challenges proposed Alpha coal mine over water impacts

Coast and Country Association of Queensland Inc (CCAQ), represented by the EDO Qld, has launched a judicial review in the Queensland Supreme Court of the 8 April 2014 Land Court decision on the massive Alpha coal mine in central Queensland.

The Land Court made recommendations to the Queensland government to either refuse the approvals for the project or approve the project with additional groundwater conditions. The judicial review of the Land Court decision is based on the grounds that the law does not allow the Land Court to recommend both refusal and approval with conditions and the law requires the indirect environmental harm, in the form of climate change impacts from the transport and use of the coal, to be considered.

CCAQ had previously argued in the Land Court that approval of the proposed mine, 360km south-west of Mackay in the Galilee Basin, should be refused because it would contribute to climate change and have permanent and irreversible effects on groundwater. The Alpha mine is expected to draw down groundwater levels by up to 5 metres within a 10-kilometre radius of the mine over its 30-year life span. The Alpha Coal Project would produce 30 million tonnes of coal per year, mainly for export, making it one of the largest coal mining proposals in Australia. The Alpha project is 79 per cent owned by GVK and 21 per cent owned by Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Coal.

The Land Court was unable to say on the evidence just how far interference with groundwater would extend, so took a precautionary approach to protect landholders. In relation to climate change, however, the Court considered it was outside the scope of the relevant Acts to consider the greenhouse gas emissions from the transport and burning of the coal from the mine.