The Queensland government has determined that eight coal mining projects situated in the floodplains and catchments of the Great Barrier Reef are exempt from producing environmental impact studies, and six of the projects have already received state approval. Environmental advocacy organizations are pushing to eliminate these exemptions.
Environmental organizations, including the Australian Conservation Foundation, Birdlife, and the Queensland Conservation Council, are urging the Palaszczuk administration to end such exemptions because they claim that without environmental impact statements, the public cannot conduct adequate scrutiny.
According to Matt Floro, acting managing attorney for the Environmental Defenders Office, mining firms are generally free to decide for themselves what problems they cover in their environmental evaluations in the absence of an EIS. This strategy carries clear hazards.
However, independent experts on a panel assembled by the federal government found some flaws in the process, most notably that it doesn’t take the cumulative effects of projects into account. The Queensland Environmental Department claimed that its process provides thorough project assessments against strict environmental criteria.
Only projects whose output meets a 2 million per metric tonne or greater criterion are required to prepare environmental impact statements. Many projects anticipate just less than that sum. The Vulcan South mine will have to destroy 1,000 hectares of koala habitat in order to produce 1.95 million metric tonnes of coking coal annually.
In a similar vein, no environmental impact statement was necessary for the Magnetic South Gemini mine, which is predicted to produce 1.9 million metric tonnes of coal year for 25 years.
According to the coalition of environmental groups battling to repeal the environmental impact statement exemptions, the eight projects recently approved for the Great Barrier Reef catchments and floodplains will emit roughly 1,866 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
In order to prevent catastrophic climate change, the International Energy Agency has stated that there can be no new coal or gas projects anywhere in the globe, according to Jason Lyddieth, clean energy and climate advocate for the Australian Conservation Foundation. It is completely absurd that Queensland is allowing new coal mines while not even requiring an environmental impact statement.
The most recent State of the Environment Report for Australia revealed that resource extraction was a contributing factor in the environment’s poor and worsening state. Enforcing strict environmental rules is the best advice for reversing environmental problems.
Critics contend that impact statements should be made a requirement for all new mining operations in order to reduce environmental damage and the worst effects of climate change, despite the Queensland Environment Department’s admission that it is striving to modernize its procedures.