Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Progress on Australian Government assessment of Alpha Coal project

Media release
15 June 2012

The Australian Government’s environmental assessment process for the Alpha Coal mine and rail project has progressed significantly over the last week.

Environment Minister, Tony Burke, said today the Government was working closely with the company to ensure that it had sufficient information and assurance on a range of matters that need to be addressed under national environment law.

“Last week on Thursday 7 June, I met with Queensland Deputy Premier Seeney and Queensland Environment Minister Powell, to discuss concerns about the way the project had been assessed by the Queensland Coordinator General under the joint bilateral arrangement,” Mr Burke said.

“It was agreed at that meeting that my department would conduct a separate national environmental assessment process for Alpha Coal mine and rail project.

“In doing so, my department have stopped the clock on the approval timeline whilst it seeks further information from the company.

“Stopping the clock does not mean stopping the process. In fact the process has progressed significantly during this recent period.

“This is a common practice to ensure my department has all the necessary information for a fully-informed decision. Once this additional information is provided, the clock will be restarted and a new statutory deadline will be set.

“My department has met with the proponent twice, on the 5th of June and again yesterday to obtain further information on their proposal.”

Four key issues have been identified that need to be addressed by the company. These are:

  • the need for more work on  species habitat modelling and surveys to ensure the impacts  on  matters of national environmental significance, including listed migratory species in the Caley Valley Wetlands, and listed threatened species and ecological communities;
  • the need to ensure that rail loop impacts from earthworks run off, including impacts on the national and world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and on marine species, are mitigated, particularly in relation to the potential impacts on the near-shore habitat for dugongs, turtles and dolphins;
  • clarifying the way the company’s cumulative impacts studies on Abbot Point interacts with other cumulative impact studies on the port; and
  • the need for an enhanced “like-for-like” offsets package.

“I am confident that this environmental assessment process will result in sound environmental protection outcomes and that we will have a determination in time for the company’s deadline for an investment decision,” Mr Burke said.

Updates and documents relevant to this assessment can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/M5A5yo.