Minister: No more approvals in the Galilee until we know whether the mines will leave enough water for the region’s future
This petition had 1,677 supporters
People, livestock and environment in the Galilee Basin, Central Queensland, rely on groundwater. Coal mine dewatering on the scale (huge) and timing (short) proposed for the whole of the Galilee in the near future would be unlike anything attempted anywhere in Australia before. The drawdown effect of the open and underground mines could create an artificial, and very long term, drought. (See report.)
The 12 mines planned for the Galilee Basin range from 20 to 60 Megatonnes of coal per annum. Historically most mines in the Bowen Basin have ranged from 3 to 8 Megatonnes of coal per annum.
The proposed wastage of precious groundwater in this arid part of the second driest continent on Earth is staggering - the coal produced will effectively be the byproduct of massive water extraction.
In the absence of comprehensive and independent modelling of system-wide cumulative impacts, we are left with no real understanding of what ultimate groundwater impacts are likely to occur. Since the 1950s, graziers, together with others, have recognised the importance of groundwater sustainability in rural Australia. Yet these coal projects threaten to undo all their hard work.
For the ecosystems depending on those shallow aquifers, also, there is fear that the drawdown will have a significant effect on vegetation, and that the loss of groundwater will result in dieback of the trees, shrubs and groundcover.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has now applied new “water trigger” legislation to coal mines proposed for the Galilee Basin - acknowledging water impacts could be significant. This is commendable, but more needs to be done.
Greg Hunt is the man who has final say over whether, and under what conditions, these coal projects go ahead. He has already approved the first 2 of the 12 mines proposed (the Alpha Coal and Kevin’s Corner mines of Gina Rinehart’s Hancock/GVK), and his decision on a third (Clive Palmer’s Galilee Coal Project/China First) is due within days.
Recently, 13 water experts wrote an open letter to Greg Hunt, asking him not to approve any more mines in the Galilee Basin until a regional groundwater model has been developed of the impacts and risks associated with all the mines proposed for the area (the water trigger does not require this). They also asked him to say no to major mining projects if it is found that they will have unacceptable impacts on water in the region.
Yet Greg Hunt could still approve these mines before the water impacts are actually understood.
Please ask Greg Hunt to listen to the water experts and to stop approving mines in the Galilee until we are assured that our aquifers won’t be destroyed, permanently.
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