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Authority refuses to delay new Qld coal project

Gainwall highwall mining unit
Gainwall highwall mining unit

An environmental regulator will let a coal development progress to the next stage of approval in Central Queensland’s Isaac region.

The State Department of Environment and Science will not require an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Vitrinite’s new Vulcan South Coal Mine, about 230km southwest of Mackay. The decision means the proponent can seek federal approval without delay.

The department claims the 1.95 million tonne (Mt) project does not meet the 2 Mt threshold required for an EIS. However, it will still face a “robust assessment” from different authorities.

“The same environmental standards will apply,” a spokesperson told The Guardian.

“This includes an opportunity for members of the public to make public submissions about the proposal.”

Former Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley previously granted federal approval for the adjacent $160M Vulcan Coal Project. The decision requires the proponent to not clear more than 203.5 hectares (ha) of koala habitat, 170 ha of squatter pigeon breeding habitat and 209.8 ha of squatter pigeon foraging habitat under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

That project is promised to create at least 150 full time jobs, and extract about 6 Mt of run-of-mine coal at a rate of up to 1.95 Mt per annum throughout its initial four-year lifespan. Although none of the jobs are advertised yet, the successful contractor is already collecting jobseeker information through its website.

Click here to apply.

India-headquartered Gainwell Engineering Global won the tender to deliver a GHWM300M highwall mining unit, which will be manufactured under license from Caterpillar with more developed and refined in the United States.

The units are promised to be safe, highly productive, more environmentally friendly, and able to access coal that would otherwise be stranded due to financial constraints.

First coal is expected to be mined sometime in 2023. If the first unit proves successful more are likely to be deployed in “quick succession” to increase production.

A small out-of-pit waste rock dump, an explosives magazine, project offices, heavy vehicle workshops and park up plus other associated infrastructure will be required.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese believes new coal and gas projects should proceed, if they meet the necessary financial and environmental requirements. This is because Australian coal pollutes less than dirtier foreign alternatives.

“Our Powering Australia Plan very explicitly says that Australian businesses that are competing against foreign businesses should not have a more onerous duty than they do because that just leads to replacement. That does not achieve a ­reduction in emissions – that just produces less economic activity in Australia,” he said according to News Limited.

New Federal Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek hopes more coal mines will open and keep operating for many “decades” to come.

“There are some people who would say we should not have any mining anywhere. It is just not a sustainable or reasonable proposition for a modern economy like Australia’s,” she said according to the media outlet.

“Mining will continue to be an important part of Australia’s prosperity.”

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