The Guardian • Issue #2081


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2081

Lock the Gate Alliance and Central Queensland conservationists have condemned the recommendation that Whitehaven’s Winchester South mega coal mine should be approved. The project will mine 17 million tonnes of thermal and metallurgical coal per annum for 28 years. It will be responsible for 583 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution – more than the entire annual GHG emissions of Australia now. Winchester South would also be responsible for a host of direct environmental impacts, including, putting already threatened species such as the koala, ornamental snake, and squatter pigeon at further risk by clearing at least 2000 hectares of habitat.

The coordinator general’s assessment identified more koala habitat than Whitehaven originally noted. The mine will drain local groundwater at an average of 155 million litres each year, with a potential maximum rate of 280 million litres each year into the mine pits, and leave three un-rehabilitated pit voids (giant holes where mining has occurred) at the end of the mine’s life. These pits will continue to drain water from the surrounding area and concentrate heavy metals and salts in the voids.

Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Ellen Roberts said, “The Land Court decided new coal mines violated the rights of young people because of the threat of climate change. The Palaszczuk government has decided the youth of Queensland don’t deserve a liveable future.” Roberts said Whitehaven was a recalcitrant environmental vandal in NSW where it operates numerous coal mines already, and there was no reason to expect it would behave any differently in Queensland.

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: Australia the big polluter. A new paper by the Climate Council highlights that Australia exports nearly three times as much fossil fuel as the United Arab Emirates, host of the United Nations climate talks this month (COP 28) in Dubai. Senior Researcher at the Climate Council Dr Wesley Morgan said there has been a lot of focus on the fact that the UN climate talks are this year hosted by a major oil exporter, but pointed out that Australia – which has put up its hand to host COP31 with Pacific island countries in 2026 – is also a fossil fuel heavyweight. “Australia must show a genuine commitment to phasing out coal, oil, and gas, and aligning with global efforts to tackle climate change if we are to truly stand alongside our Pacific neighbours knowing we are doing everything possible to protect our communities and region,” said Dr Morgan.

The paper makes it clear that the global energy transformation is well underway, with renewable energy sources like solar and wind becoming cheaper and more accessible around the world, replacing the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and transportation. Further steps are needed to build on this momentum and accelerate the pace. The Climate Council notes that Australia is one of the sunniest and windiest countries on earth, rich in critical minerals and is ideally positioned to become a major exporter of clean technologies and green metals. As the world moves rapidly towards net zero, these resources could put us at the forefront of meeting the growing demand for sustainable and low-carbon commodities.

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