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Australia: Queensland Court Finds Against Coal Mine Due to CO2



By Jo Clarke

November 29, 2022 - The Queensland Land Court has recommended that the state government not grant a mining lease to the 40mn t/yr Galilee Basin thermal coal mine citing damage caused by carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, adding to the difficulties faced by those wanting to develop coal mines in Australia.

The Land Court found that the 1.58Gt of CO2 generated by burning the coal from entrepreneur Clive Palmer's Alpha North coal mine project in the Galilee basin would contribute to environmental harm in its recommendation that the mine not proceed. The ruling adds more complexity to those seeking to develop coal mines in Australia, particularly in Queensland.

The Alpha North project would export coal with lower calorific value than grades typically sold from Australia through the port of Abbot Point, operating in the same basin as Indian firm Adani's 20mn t/yr Carmichael mine. The project is among the 19 coal and gas projects that have been subject to a further period of public comment at the federal level because of the impact of climate change on various protected parts of the Australian environment, including world and national heritage sites and wetlands.

All 19 projects were open for public comment during 3-24 November, with legal centre Environmental Justice Australia asking for the federal government to reconsider previous decisions to declare them as controlled actions. The process, which began in July, has delayed project approvals at a time of record-high thermal coal prices.

The Land Court decision adds further uncertainty and delays, although it could be appealed or ignored by the state government as it is only a recommendation.

The previous federal coalition government in March won its appeal against a court ruling that the environment minister has a duty of care to young people when making decisions about resource projects that will emit large volumes of greenhouse gases. The court case was seen to have delayed some mine approvals while the-then federal environment minister Sussan Ley waited for the matter to be resolved.

The current Labor government in Canberra has been more proactive in tackling climate change, including legislating a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 43pc on 2005 levels by 2030. But it has not banned all new coal mine development, as proposed by The Greens, because it thinks this will be impractical during the transition to renewable energy. The Labor government also has close ties with unions, including powerful mining unions.