Top coal exporter Australia has blocked a major mine proposed near the Great Barrier Reef under environmental laws.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek announced her final decision on the Central Queensland Coal Project on Twitter on Wednesday, saying in a video that she had received more than 9,000 public submissions on the mine in just 10 business days.
An update on the proposed Central Queensland Coal project. pic.twitter.com/byAXTPLRB4— Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) February 8, 2023
It is the first time that an Australian minister has rejected a proposed coal mine under the country’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. That marks a major turnaround for Australia, long seen as a global climate laggard and one of the world’s biggest per-capita polluters because of its huge coal and natural gas export industries.
“I’ve decided that the adverse environmental impacts are simply too great,” Plibersek said in her Twitter message. “The mine is an open cut coal mine less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Great Barrier Reef and the risk of pollution and irreversible damage to the Reef is very real.”
Coal is Australia’s biggest export after iron ore and the proposed mine was among a raft of projects that would significantly increase emissions in the nation.
Central Queensland Coal proposed extracting as much as 10 million tons of thermal and coking coal a year over a lifespan of about 24 years, according to the Queensland government. The project is owned by Clive Palmer, a vocal businessman who’s used his mining sector fortune to make forays into politics.
Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of metallurgical coal and only trails Indonesia in shipments of thermal coal. The center-left Labor government elected in May has been attempting to step up Australia’s action on climate change, pledging to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030 from 2005 levels.
(By Ben Westcott)