This project is not yet fully funded, and is a no go for banks. It is closely tracked by BankTrack.
Alpha mine test pit, Galilee Basin 2012. Greenpeace
The Alpha Coal project is a A$6.4 billion coal mine and export project that is proposed to be constructed in Queensland, Australia. The black thermal coal mine and associated rail and port infrastructure are expected to produce and transport, respectively, an estimated 30 million tonnes per year to Asia. The rail corridor would be 495 km long linking the mine near the town of Alpha in the Galilee Basin with an export port at Abbot Point, Queensland. If the project is approved, it will be the first coal mine in the Galilee Basin. The activities of this project are expected to directly and negatively impact the Great Barrier Reef due to export shipments, which will directly cross the reef.
The Hancock Alpha project was originally proposed in 2008. It was deemed to be a “controlled action” in 2009, meaning that it would require approval under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act before it could proceed. The EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) process began in 2009.
On 29 May 2012, the Queensland Coordinator-General issued a report on the project and recommended that it be approved subject to 128 conditions. However, within hours of this being announced, the Federal Environment Minister issued a statement explaining that significant national environmental issues had not been adequately considered by the State Government and that additional Federal assessment may be required.
After a public slanging match between the Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, on 5th June 2012, Minister Burke held a press conference announcing that:
He would stop the clock on the approval process for the Alpha Coal Project;
More work was needed to be done in order to satisfy the requirements of Federal environmental law;
The Queensland Government could not be trusted to protect the Great Barrier Reef
what must happen
The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, must not approve any major coastal development in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area until an overall Strategic Assessment of the reef is completed and a management plan put in place.
There is no way for a thermal coal mine to be sustainable in 2012. The only sustainable option is for the coal to remain safely sequestered in the ground.
Banks and other financial institutions should declare their intention to avoid investing in the Alpha Coal Project.
The Alpha region where the mine is proposed has a very low population base and is a cattle grazing region. In order to build the mine, major new infrastructure will be required and the region is expected to be transformed from its traditional agricultural base. Skills shortages created by the rapid expansion of mining are leading to a heavy use of FIFO (or “Fly in, fly out”) workers. It is expected that most of the workers at the Alpha mine will be FlFO.
The mine would directly impact an area of 20,618 hectares. This land is currently a range of different types of woodland and non-remnant grassland (grazing land).
The Alpha project will result in the clearance of thousands of hectares of land that is high value habitat for a number of threatened species including the endangered black-throated finch and star finch and the venerable red goshawk, squatter pigeon, Australian painted snipe, greater long-eared bat, and yaka skink.
Surveys of the project area identified a total of 167 vertebrate fauna species: 94 birds, 36 mammals, 27 reptiles and 10 amphibians. The mammals included 3 species of wallaby, kangaroos, bettong, echidna, koala and 17 species of bat. The birds included emu, the vulnerable southern Squatter Pigeon and 24 migratory species.
The Greentree Creek flows across an area set to be opencut mined. The proponent is also planning a 9km diversion of the Lagoon Creek which crosses the mine site
The Alpha project would be the first mine to be created in the Galilee basin, opening the door for several other major coal mine proposals in the region. The 30 million tonne Alpha coal mine would be the biggest of its kind and result in an additional 65 million tonnes of CO2 added to the atmosphere each year.
As the first thermal coal export mine of its kind, and by establishing infrastructure that could be shared by other mines, the Alpha project would facilitate the opening up of the Galilee basin to coal mining at large. This would result in billions of tonnes of carbon pollution generated from burning the coal dug up from the Galilee over the coming decades. It would also have a devastating impact on the Great Barrier Reef coastline, increasing shipping numbers by up to 10,000 ships per year over the coming decade.
The proposed port expansions to service the Galilee basin coal development would result in construction and significant dredging work taking place along the Great Barrier Reef coastline. New ports and expansions are proposed in regions home to rare and threatened marine species, as well as migratory habitats of several species of whale.
The United Nations World Heritage body UNESCO visited Australia in March 2012 out of concern that coastal development was having on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. UNESCO delivered a report on 1 June 2012 that proposes a UN decision that “…requests the State Party to not permit any new port development or associated infrastructure outside of the existing and long-established major port areas within or adjoining the property, and to ensure that development is not permitted if it would impact individually or cumulatively on the Outstanding Universal Value of the [World Heritage] property.” This is likely to result in additional environmental scrutiny for GVK's port development at Abbot Point.
If substantial progress in protecting the reef is not made by 2013, the World Heritage Committee has been requested to consider placing the Great Barrier Reef on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Alpha coal project would directly lead to increased port development in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, as well as lead the way for numerous other port expansions, placing the Great Barrier Reef at risk.
Janice Barnes, Jessie Driver, Owen McEvoy, Deree King and Patrick Fisher on behalf of the Wangan and Jagalingou People lodged expedited procedure objection applications (QO08/188) against the State of Queensland’s proposed granting of a coal exploration permit to Hancock Prospecting in for an area adjacent to the mine site and included in the mine’s Mining Lease Application (MLA). This objection was rejected.
The Great Barrier Reef provides $5.1 billion per year to the Australian economy and sustains 50,000 jobs.
The rapid expansion of mining in Australia is distorting the economy in ways that have severe adverse impacts on other sectors. The high Australian dollar has made it difficult for other export-driven sectors such as manufacturing.
Oct 16, 2012, Australian Environment Minister approves first of many new port developments along Great Barrier Reef
The Australian Environment Minister, Tony Burke,
has quietly approved the first of many new port developments along the Great
Barrier Reef coast last Thursday. It
appears that the minister made this decision with incomplete information. The Caley Valley wetland, which is adjacent
to Abbot Point (where the proposed T3 terminal will be located), is of
international significance. However,
these concerns appeared to have been brushed aside by the state government and
the company (GVK, Hancock). For more
information please click here.
Jun 08, 2012, NGOs warn investors on project risks
On June 8
Greenpeace, GetUp! and Banktrack placed an ad in the Asian Financial
Times, alerting potential investors to the risks associated with the
Alpha project. When the Federal Treasurer was asked what he thought
of the ad, encouraging people not to invest in new coal export
projects in Australia, he was livid, calling the campaginers deplorable and
obnoxious. The story took off from
there, please click here to see some examples of the media coverage this has received.
Jun 07, 2012, Current Status
The mine and rail corridor received conditional environmental approval from the Queensland Coordinator-General office on 29 May 2012. However, the approval failed to deal with critical national environmental issues, and after conflict between the Queensland and Commonwealth Government the Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said in a press conference on 5 June 2012 that he would stop the clock on the approval process until the additional environmental assessments has been completed.
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