Rinehart's $6.4 billion coal mine project gets the green light

Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has been granted Federal Government approval to go ahead with her massive $6.4 billion Alpha coal mine and rail project in Central Queensland, Australia, reigniting a political and environmental brawl amongst  stakeholders.

Federal environment minister, Tony Burke, took the opportunity during the announcement to attack Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, saying that the federal government wouldn’t submit to his request for it to ‘‘get out of the way’’ of the state’s major coal projects, reports Brisbane Times. 

‘‘If what the premier of Queensland wants is for me to give approvals without conducting checks, then I will stand in his way,’’ a fired-up Mr Burke said on Thursday.

Marking the Great Barrier Reef a key concern, Burke added that the project had to conform to strict environmental guidelines and reiterated previous criticism of the QLD Government, where he labeled its handling of the proposal a "shambolic joke". 

Environmentalists such as Greenpeace have condemned the mine's approval as, they claim, it will mean an unacceptable rise in vessels passing the Great Barrier Reef, impacting air quality and native flora and fauna.

7,000 ships are expected to traverse the reef each year by 2020, compared to 5,000 in 2010, while ports on the Barrier Reef coast currently export 156 million tonnes of coal each year (mtpa), a figure expected to rise to 953 mtpa before the close of the decade, according to AFP.

The United Nations has stepped in, warning of the perils that the Greater Barrier Reef faces as a result of Australia's unchecked mining industry. As reported by MINING.com earlier, UNESCO has called for a ban on the construction of new ports within the reef's vicinity for the next three years.

Queensland's state government has responded to UNESCO's calls with immediate vehemence, declaring itself to be a part of the "coal business" and stating frankly that it would not put environmental preservation before economic development.

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