August 9, 2017 - Glencore’s multibillion-dollar Wandoan coal mine proposal has been granted mining leases years after it was shelved amid falling commodity prices and a ramped-up global response to climate change.
On Tuesday, Queensland, Australia's natural resources and mines minister, Dr. Anthony Lynham, approved three 27-year leases covering 30,000 hectares for the first stage of its $7bn mine near Roma.
Doubts about the future of the Wandoan mine had lingered since 2012, amid falling thermal coal prices and a poor market outlook.
The approval has enraged environmental groups, who say the government is prioritizing a flailing coal industry over communities and putting the state’s agricultural industry at further risk.
“For many years local farmers have been fighting this coalmine,” an Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman, Jason Lyddieth, said on Wednesday. “We know that digging up coal and burning it is polluting our air and fuelling climate change.
“The Queensland government needs to get serious about preparing for a carbon pollution-free world. It needs to get serious about our water, our land and our air.”
Greenpeace said the approval showed the government was more interested in propping up the fossil fuel industry than protecting communities and the environment.
“We can either have a healthy planet and thriving Great Barrier Reef or we can have new coal mines, not both,” said a climate and energy campaigner, Nikola Casule. “Our politicians must abandon their coal fetish and instead harness the renewable energy revolution to protect Australian communities and position Australia as an industry leader in this rapidly growing sector.”
GetUp promised to “resist this mine every step of the way”.
“In 2010 local landholders took this mine to court on the basis of destruction to their land and water, and the mine has been troubled by complex compensation claims,” said a Queensland campaigner, Ellen Roberts.
Lock the Gate called it “a very dark day for farming in Queensland”. A spokeswoman, Carmel Flint, said: “A large number of farmers have already been displaced by Glencore over this vast area, and now we fear that remaining farmers on and near the lease will be forced out.
“This project will be eligible for a secretive Queensland government loan via the royalty deferral package announced in June.
“So, Queenslanders are expected to subsidize mining giant Glencore for five years as it rips through one of our core agricultural regions.
The open-cut mine is proposed to operate for 35 years in the Surat basin, and will require a railway to the Gladstone port.
In a statement on Wednesday, Glencore said new, large-scale projects depended on market support and that significant investment was still needed. Glencore has previously acknowledged the disproportionate risk surrounding new projects.