What a week! New update on the Alpha coal mine

Feature Story - 6 June, 2012
Whoever said a week was a long time in politics was obviously talking about the last seven days.

9th March 2012. Abbot Point, QueenslandGreenpeace activists and local community lay out an 80 metre by 10 metre banner reading "Reef "in danger"" as the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) mission took a final flight over the controversial site of the proposed coal port, Abbot Point. ©Greenpeace/Tom Jefferson NO ARCHIVE. NO RESALE. CREDIT COMPULSORY. OK FOR ONLINE REPRO.

So what happened?

The campaign to save our Great Barrier Reef and our climate from the reckless expansion of the coal industry has taken many twists and turns this week. What remains certain is that your help is vital in creating pressure on decision makers – they have heard loud and clear that these mines are threatening our Great Barrier Reef and our climate. We must keep the pressure on!

It kicked off last Tuesday when the Queensland Co-ordinator General announced that he would approve Gina Rinehart/GVK’s 30 million tonne Alpha mine project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. GVK’s share price went up by 5% off the back of the announcement. The next stop in the approval process is Tony Burke’s office.

Tony Burke, realised the Queensland Government hadn’t done anything like the kind of job necessary to sign off on a project of this size – like an adequate environmental assessment. So Burke told them to get themselves together. Queensland retaliated by saying they had done a great job and Tony Burke had 30 days to give his approval or they would blame him for the duplication of the process.

By Friday it was press releases at ten paces with both state and federal governments blaming each other. Then, by early Saturday morning it was clear from UNESCO’s draft report on the Great Barrier Reef that the rest of the world thought Australia was doing a terrible job of protecting the Reef from coal developments.

Not to be outdone, on Tuesday, Minister Burke held a press conference where he said, “I don’t trust the Queensland Government with either Queensland jobs or the Great Barrier Reef” and with that he announced he would “stop the clock” on the Alpha mine proposal.

This was a welcome intervention in a process that was running off the rails. Minister Burke had no choice but to intervene in the shambolic environmental approval process for the Alpha Coal Project.

Queenslanders have been really let down by both the mining companies and the Queensland Government. The initial assessment by GVK and Gina Rinehart was totally inadequate and the Queensland Government wanted to rubber stamp the project with little concern for either the communities that are being affected by their decisions or the environment that will be devastated by them. Like Minister Burke, no Queenslanders, or financial investors can trust the Queensland Government with the stewardship of the Reef or the management of Queensland jobs – especially those in the tourism and manufacturing sectors

While we welcome Minister Burke’s leadership on the issue, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. He has shown he has the legislative power to stop the clock on the approval process of the Alpha mine so we are again asking him to stop the clock on any major industrial development happening on the Reef.
With Gina Rinehart and GVK pushing hard for approval of the Alpha Coal Project and their T3 coal port expansion at Abbot Point before the end of the year, the pressure is on to save the reef.

We are calling on Tony Burke to go beyond his decision on the Alpha Coal Project today and put in place an effective moratorium on approval of major industrial developments in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area until the Strategic Assessment is concluded and a management plan put in place.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Burke to save the reef