Capricorn Conservation Council is extremely disappointed in today’s decision by the State government to allow Clive Palmer’s Central Queensland Coal Project (CQC) to proceed to the next level of assessment despite it posing a serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef and nationally protected wetlands.

The Coordinator of the Capricorn Conservation Council, Dr Coral Rowston, said, “With government, business and industry all setting targets for reduced emissions, we don’t need another coal mine. We certainly don’t need developments that threaten the Great Barrier Reef and the Broad Sound Wetland and Broad Sound Fish Habitat Area.

“Central Queensland needs to embrace the future and look to invest in the lucrative renewables market, not to create another emission producing mine.”

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) has now reviewed the third iteration of this proposed project and, despite the proponent responses to the committee’s previous advice, they cannot see how the project will not have significant environmental impacts on the reef and wetlands.

“The results of this scientific review are frightening. The IECS are saying that there are no feasible mitigation measures that could safeguard these irreplaceable and internationally significant ecological assets”, said Dr Rowston.

“Capricorn Conservation Council believes that the government should have taken heed of the scientists’ advice and sent this proposal back with a refusal to accept it.

“It is hypocritical for the State government to say we should be listening to the experts when it comes to COVID-19, but ignoring the experts when it comes to saying no to a coal mine that we don’t need which is contrary to the direction the rest of the world is heading in relation to emission reductions.”

We now have to scenario that if this mine goes ahead, there will be significant and irreversible damage to internationally valued estuarine and near-shore ecosystems.

The scientists are saying that there will be a high probability of pollutants entering the waterways during operation and will continue post-mining through the groundwater interaction with backfilled mining voids.  They also noted that there will be a disturbance of sodic soils which are prone to erosion.

“Our reef and wetlands and the services they provide will suffer with additional sediment and pollution.”

 The IESC review also noted that if the mine proceeded, there would be:

  • loss of stygofauna habitat from the Styx River alluvium around the mine;
  • drying or reduced volumes of water in permanent pools along Tooloombah and Deep creeks during the dry season, compromising their roles as aquatic refuges for wildlife;
  • a direct loss of approximately 8.35 km of waterways that provide fish passage during periods of high rainfall and flood; and
  • adverse impacts on protected species such as the koala and greater glider through loss of habitat.

“This decision makes a mockery of the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017–2022, which was supposed to be a joint commitment of the Australian and Queensland governments to improve the quality of water flowing from the catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef and is a kick in the teeth to all the landholders that are being forced to make sure that they aren’t polluting the waterways in the Great Barrier Reef catchments.”

“We can’t help being disappointed that this project has made it as far as the Environmental Impact Statement phase given the significant risks and the lack of options to mitigate these risks”, said Dr Rowston.