Ian Macfarlane from Queensland Resources Council says Adani is “the ice-breaker” for the Galilee Basin. (AAP: Lukas Coch)
A decision on the Adani groundwater management plan is set down for tomorrow with environmentalists saying if the Queensland Government gives the green light it will set a precedent for six other mines also planned for the region and allow Adani to break ground within weeks.
- There have been six other mine project proposals put before the Federal Department of Environment and Energy
- Resources council says the projects following Adani will “have a much easier run”
- In the nine years since its inception, Adani has significantly scaled back the estimated coal output for the mine
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) said the other projects would have a “much easier run” if the rail line was already established and the environmental approvals had been cleared.
QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said Adani was “actually the ice-breaker that will lay down those baselines and will provide the infrastructure”.
“What’s going to happen with the groundwater application and its potential approval is that any further applicants will have not only the infrastructure to get the coal out because the railway line will be there,” he said.
“They’ll also have a baseline of where they can work from in terms of both the black-throated finch, the groundwater and then thirdly, the general environmental conditions they have to adhere to as part of opening a new basin.
“So the proponents coming behind it, quite frankly, will have a much easier run than Adani.
“The first proponent always has the most difficult run.”
In a statement, a Department of Environment and Science spokesperson said each mining application was subject to “a rigorous assessment”.
“The approval, or otherwise, of one mine does not necessarily impact on the approval, or otherwise, of others,” the spokesperson said.
‘Zombie’ projects uncertain starters
Tim Buckley from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said Adani going ahead “potentially enables all of the other projects… but it critically depends on the state of the seaborne thermal coal market”.
“All of the other projects have been zombie projects for the best part of a decade,” he said.
Mr Buckley said GVK Singapore, the dominant partner in the Kevin’s Corner, Alpha and Alpha West projects, was effectively “bankrupt” with more than $US1 billion debt and no revenue or equity.
But billionaire Gina Rinehart, who is owed $US750 million by GVK, could bankroll Galilee Coal if she saw money in it — as could Clive Palmer, who was “back to the races and cashed up with his iron ore royalties”, he said.
Mr Buckley said Adani faced a “baptism of fire” from the environmental movement which used the Maules Creek coal mine in NSW — delayed for a decade by protests — as “a trial run for the Galilee”.
“I think all the second movers will be waiting to see how bad it gets,” he said.
Environmentalist and former Greens leader Bob Brown says the cumulative impact of all seven mines on the Galilee Basin has not been assessed. (ABC News )
However, environmentalist and former Greens leader Dr Bob Brown said an approval would set a dangerous precedent.
“These are mega-mines by Australian and world standards,” he said.
“The cumulative impact here on extracting water from a very limited resource is not being taken into account as it should have been.
“If you’re going to develop a basin of this size … then the impact on water and on the natural environment should have been done as a whole — it’s done piecemeal.”
A spokesperson for the Coordinator-General said all Galilee projects were required to “comprehensively assess the potential environmental impacts including potential cumulative impacts”.
What other mines are planned?
There have been six other mine project proposals put before the Federal Department of Environment and Energy and of those, two belong to Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal and two to GVK Hancock which is part-owned by Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart.
Palmer’s Waratah Coal has been granted 12 coal exploration permits in the Galilee Basin and has applied for two mining leases covering approximately 220,000 hectares of land — a total area greater than the Gold Coast.
Waratah’s tenements would produce more than 120 million tonnes of coal per year in total.
GVK Hancock is a partnership between Hancock Prospecting and Indian infrastructure company GVK.
In 2008, it was the first company to propose a Galilee Basin mine.
That proposal, known as the Alpha Coal Project, has faced lengthy legal challenges from a Queensland-based group of environmentalists and farmers.
The other two mines belong to MacMines Austasia and a subsidiary of the AMCI Group.
In May it surfaced that MacMines, a 100 per cent subsidiary of the Chinese Meijin Energy Group, had relinquished its bid for a mining lease its China Stone project.
But Mr Macfarlane said that does not mean the company had abandoned the mine.
“MacMines haven’t stopped. They’re still doing their exploration, they’re still proving up the resource,” he said.
“They just didn’t proceed to a mining application because once you get a mining lease, you actually have to start mining within a certain time period,” he said.
The seventh mine belongs to AMCI Alpha Pty Ltd — a subsidiary of US-based resources giant the AMCI group.
1. Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project
- Proponent: Adani Australia
- Operational jobs: 1,464
- What is proposed: Six open-cut coal pits, five longwall mines, coal handling and processing areas, workers accommodation village and airport have been approved by the Co-ordinator General. A 200-kilometre rail link to an existing Aurizon-operated line is also proposed.
- How big: Mining Lease has been granted covering around 41,000 hectares
- Output: Adani says it anticipates production to fall between 10 and 27 million tonnes per year, but it is approved by the Co-ordinator General to lift 60 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).
- Federal Government approval stage: Completed
- State Government approval stage: Mining Lease has been granted and EIS approved with conditions. Final environmental condition will be assessed this week. There are still a number of key agreements which need to be made for rail construction to begin and royalty agreements are still to be finalised.
- In the nine years since its inception, Adani has significantly scaled back the estimated coal output for the mine and is no longer asking for public funding.
2. Alpha North Coal Mine Project
- Proponent: Waratah Coal
- Operational jobs: No estimate
- What is proposed: Two open cut mines and eight underground operations
- How big: Mining lease application covers around 142,000 hectares
- Output: 80 million tonnes per annum (product yield)
- Federal Government approval stage: Department of Environment is assessing the project, Waratah is preparing its environmental assessment documentation.
- State Government approval stage: The company’s mining lease application is still under assessment. The mine has not yet been subject to the Co-ordinator General’s assessment.
3. Galilee Coal and Rail Project (formerly known as China First Coal Project)
- Proponent: Waratah Coal
- Operational jobs: 2,325
- What is proposed: Two underground mines, two open-cut coal mines, two coal preparation plants and stockpiles
- How big: Mining Lease Application covers an area of around 76,000 hectares
- Output: More than 40 million tonnes per annum
- Federal Government approval stage: Approved, with strict environmental and groundwater conditions
- State Government approval stage: Mining Lease Application still under assessment. EIS has been approved by the Co-ordinator General, with conditions.
4. China Stone Coal Project
- Proponent: MacMines Austasia
- Operational jobs: 3,400
- What is proposed: one open-cut, three underground mines, mine infrastructure and workshops, rail loop and train-loading facilities, airstrip, accommodation village
- How big: EIS says project will be built on a 20,000 hectare site
- Output: Up to 38 million tonnes per annum
- Federal Government approval stage: Under assessment. Department of Environment has requested MacMines provide additional environmental information
- State Government approval stage: MacMines has withdrawn its mining lease application. EIS has been approved by the Co-ordinator General, with conditions.
5. Kevin’s Corner Project
- Proponent: GVK Hancock
- Operational jobs: 1,600
- What is proposed: Two open-cut mines, three underground mines, coal handling facilities, mine waste and water facilities, airport and accommodation village
- How big: Mining Lease Application covers around 37,000 hectares
- Output: Up to 30 million tonnes per annum
- Federal Government approval stage: Approved under national environment law in 2013, with strict conditions.
- State Government approval stage: Mining Lease application still under assessment, EIS has been approved with conditions.
6. Alpha Coal Project
- Proponent: GVK Hancock
- Operational jobs: 990
- What is proposed: Six open cut coal pits and infrastructure
- How big: Mining Lease Application for around 32,000 hectares
- Output: 30 million tonnes per annum
- Federal Government approval stage: Approved with conditions in 2012.
- State Government approval stage: Mining lease application still under assessment. EIS approved with conditions.
7. South Galilee Coal Project
- Proponent: ACMI Group
- Operational jobs: 1,288
- What is proposed: Open cut and underground coal mine
- How big: Mining Lease Application for around 30,000 hectares
- Output: 17 million tonnes per annum
- Federal Government approval stage: Approved with strict conditions in 2015. There are a number of conditions yet to be meet before significant progress can commence on the project.
- State Government approval stage: Mining Lease Application still under assessment.
*Data from Department of Environment and Energy, Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, Business Queensland