MacMines Australia gets environmental nod for mega coal mine in Queensland

MacMines Australia has received environmental approval from the Queensland Government for its proposed A$6.7 billion ($4.84B) China Stone coal mega-mine in the Galilee Basin, but with conditions.

The open-pit and underground thermal coal project, located close to Adani Group’s polemic Carmichael mine, is slated to produce up to 38 million tonnes of coal per year once at full tilt. Coal from the 20,000-hectare mine will be exported to Asia, mainly China, according to the Coordinator General's evaluation report of the project's environmental impact statement.

As part of the project development, the company will build a coal handling and preparation plant, a tailings storage facility, a rail loop and train-loading facilities, as well as a coal-fired power station.

China Stone mine is expected contribute about A$188 million in annual royalties to the Queensland Government during its first 25 years of operation and create thousands of jobs. However, it faces a few challenges before it can become an operating mine, BMO Metals said Monday.

Some of the conditions for the approval include MacMines having to avoid, or mitigate and manage, any impact on the black-throated finch habitat, groundwater and surface water resources.

“While [the environmental nod] is certainly a step towards development, we see number of other hurdles in the way. From an environmental standpoint, the federal government is still required to assess the project while additional information is required on its groundwater impact,” they wrote.

“Perhaps more importantly, the project economics look challenging with a coal quality lower than existing Australian basins, the need for significant infrastructure on rail to be spent and a reliance on the nearby Adani Carmichael project to go ahead to facilitate development, otherwise this asset would be left stranded,” the research note said.

MacMines Australia, owned by China’s Shanxi Meijin Energy, estimates the life of China Stone mine at 50 years, during which it will use the Abbot Point Coal Terminal for shipments.

Some of the conditions imposed by Coordinator General's office for the approval include MacMines having to avoid, or mitigate and manage, any impact on the black-throated finch habitat, groundwater and surface water resources.

It will also be required to progressively rehabilitate disturbed land throughout the life of the project to ensure it can sustain a post-mining land use.

The Federal Environment Minister has been sent the EIS evaluation and now has six weeks to make a decision under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

If the project gets all the necessary approvals, it will take five years to construct, 300 kilometres west of Mackay, with Charter Towers and Clermont being the closest townships by road, being just over 250 km away.