Ignoring environmental impacts, Australia approves massive Carmichael coal mine

Much of the coal extracted from the Carmichael mine will be destined for export by barge. Creative Commons: Imam Hartoyo, 2012.

Much of the coal extracted from the Carmichael mine will be destined for export by barge. Creative Commons: Imam Hartoyo, 2012.

Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt today approved the AU$16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee basin.

The project is expected to be one of the world’s largest coal mines, consisting of six open-cut pits and five underground mines. It will cover 200 square kilometers—more than three times the size of Manhattan—and will produce approximately 60 million tonnes of coal per year.

Once mined, the coal will be shipped by rail to Abbot Point, the site of a hotly contested export terminal expansion, where it will then be exported to India. Minister Hunt claims that the new mine will “provide electricity for up to 100 million people,” ignoring recent findings that show that India is unlikely to be able to afford Australian coal.

The approval of the proposal was subject to 36 conditions, most of which focus on preserving groundwater quality. Nevertheless, the decision has prompted environmental groups to express a slew of concerns.

In a statement, Greens Senator Larissa Waters said:

Off the back of repealing effective action on climate change, the Abbott Government has ticked off on a proposal for Australia’s biggest coal mine to cook the planet and turn our reef into a super highway for coal ships.

History will look back on the Abbott Government’s decision today as an act of climate criminality.

The Carmichael mine will increases risks to the Great Barrier Reef through dredging, and threatens groundwater through both contamination and annual consumption of three billion litres.

The coal extracted by the mine will also have a considerable impact on climate change, which is already bearing down on Australia.

While the Abbott Government claims that it takes climate action seriously, the coal burned from Carmichael will erase any net carbon reduction gains made through its Direct Action policy. Coal from the mine will pump 128 million tons of carbon dioxide into the global atmosphere—all but erasing the 131 million tonne reduction Direct Action aims to achieve domestically.

Lifecycle estimates also put emissions from the project at three billion tonnes over 60-years, further adding to the heavy toll the mine will have on Australia’s and the world’s carbon budget.

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