Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Alpha Coal mine and rail project approved

Media release
23 August 2012

Environment Minister Tony Burke today approved, with strict conditions, the Alpha Coal mine and rail project in Queensland under national environmental law.

Mr Burke said the approval has been granted with 19 strict conditions directed specifically at ensuring matters of national environmental significance are protected, including the Great Barrier Reef.

"My approval follows a rigorous assessment process after I was forced to step in and complete the assessment. This has ensured the highest standards of environmental regulation were applied to this project,'' he said.

"While the decision has taken an additional three months since the Queensland Coordinator General's report was released, I'm satisfied that we have now put in place the required additional conditions for the protection of the environment including the Great Barrier Reef.

"I was determined to ensure that the risks to the environment such as impacts on threatened species, threats to the Great Barrier Reef and the potential for coal dust impacts and runoff were properly dealt with.

"My approval conditions have been set to address these concerns including a higher quantity of offsets for impacts on threatened species, and ensuring that industry best practice is adhered to and that strict threshold limits for coal dust impacts on the Reef are met through the provision of covered wagons or equivalent and in the Caley Valley Management Plan.

"In particular, I ensured that management plans were put in place to ensure stormwater and runoff or coal dust impact from the project is managed to minimise sediment into the Burdekin Dam and onto the Great Barrier Reef.

"My decision has been based on a thorough and rigorous assessment of the proposal taking into account the advice of my department and independent scientific advice.

"While I have considered the social and economic implications of this project, my focus has been on protecting matters of national environmental significance through strict conditions, including a significant offsets package.

"In making this decision I took advice from members of the Interim Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Coal Mining which made recommendations related to groundwater impacts in the Galilee Basin and surface water impacts in the Burdekin Catchment."

The approval conditions set out comprehensive management and monitoring arrangements including:

  • The proponent will be required to submit a Caley Valley Wetland Management Plan for the Minister's approval and to ensure that coal dust impacts on the Caley Valley Wetland are minimised through various measures including covered wagons or equivalent.
  • A Matters of National Environmental Significance Management Plan to maximise the ongoing protection and long term conservation of EPBC listed threatened fauna
  • Several management plans will manage potential impacts on the values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and species including dugongs, turtles and migratory birds
  • Significant and comprehensive land offsets to protect listed threatened ecological communities and species
  • A proponent-established trust, with initial funding of $2 million, to conduct research on the black-throated finch and the squatter pigeon, with provision for a more strategic approach to protect all key species in the Galilee Basin in the event that any further mines are approved in the basin,
  • Management plans covering mine rehabilitation, vegetation, water quality and regional impacts on water quality, and
  • Identify threshold limits and management measures for any coal dust impacts on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and reporting to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority every six months.

Project proponent GVK Hancock referred the proposal to construct and operate an open-cut coal mine and 495 kilometre railway line to Abbott Point for federal assessment in December 2008 because of its potential impact on listed threatened species and ecological communities, migratory species, their habitat, and national and world heritage.

For more information go to http://bit.ly/M5A5yo.