Australia has approved its third coal mine extension in the past month in the lead up to a global climate summit next month and even as its high court ruled the government must consider the harm of climate change when approving new mines and extensions.
Climate campaigners expected that a high court ruling in May that the government has a moral obligation to children to consider climate change when approving mining projects would slow licences for new mines.
However, Environment Minister Sussan Ley approved mine extensions for Whitehaven Coal and Wollonggong Coal in September and plans to appeal the decision later this month, underscoring that the government will not be bound by the court’s decision.
This time Ley approved the extension for Glencore’s Mangoola thermal coal mine in New South Wales on the basis that the mine’s emissions were unlikely to contribute to the trajectory of climate change.
The Mangoola extension will allow the mine to run for another eight years and produce 52 million tonnes of coal.
“The mine itself will contribute approximately 0.00073 percent to global emissions per annum,” Ley noted in her decision.
“Based on this estimate (the mine)… is unlikely to influence global emissions and climate change trajectories.”
Glencore welcomed the approval that secures employment for the mine’s 400 workers and will add another 100 jobs during construction.
It said the coal mined in coming years would offset closures and lower output at its operations elsewhere and had been included in its plans announced last year to halve its direct, indirect and customer emissions by 2035 that are among the most ambitious of any miner.
Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter and has not signed up for a zero carbon emissions target by 2050 even as other countries outline stricter targets ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
“Coming as it does just a month before pivotal global climate change negotiations, it is frankly alarming to witness this country digging itself deeper into its obstinate refusal to take climate change and rural sustainability seriously,” said George Woods, of environmental group Lock the Gate Alliance.
(By Melanie Burton; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)