The Queensland Land Court delivered its judgement on Hancock Galilee’s proposed Kevin’s Corner coalmine on July 4. Hancock Galilee is a wholly owned subsidiary of the GVK Group, which also owns the adjacent Alpha mine.
Land court member Wayne Cochrane determined: “There is no basis upon which I should recommend refusal of the grant of the mining lease, notwithstanding that it will convert otherwise useful grazing land into a coalmine.”
The Kevin’s Corner mine is an open-cut and underground coalmine, situated in the Galilee Basin in the catchment of the Burdekin River which flows into wetlands and the Great Barrier Reef.
It has estimated thermal coal resources of 4.269 billion tonnes and will affect 37,380 hectares of land, of which 632 hectares is high ecological value habitat.
The mine would run for 40 years with an annual extraction rate of 45 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal, making it one of the largest coalmining projects in Australia.
The proposal depends on the completion of the Alpha Coal project (an open cut coal mine adjoining the southern boundary of the Kevin’s Corner mine footprint; a rail line with a 60 million tonnes a year capacity to transport coal to Abbot Point; Galilee Basin Transmission Project (a high voltage power transmission line proposed by Powerlink, which would provide power to the mine site and other Galilee Basin projects); and the Abbot Point Coal Terminal.
The case was initiated by local graziers Bruce and Annette Currie, the Coast and Country Association of Queensland, Mackay Conservation Group, and North Queensland Conservation Council. The Curries and other local landholder objectors gave evidence of the impact on their business operations.
Cochran said in his determination: “I have reached the conclusion that the conditions imposed ... are adequate to deal with the environmental impacts caused by the proposed mining operations. I have come to the view that the disadvantages are not sufficient to outweigh the advantages of developing this mineral resource and accordingly, while I am bound to come to the view that public rights and interests will be affected I do not reach the conclusion that the public interest will be unreasonably prejudiced by the proposed mining operation.”
“I think it unnecessary to recommend insertion of any additional conditions into the draft Environmental Assessment in order to protect the groundwater resources as I believe the requirements for ongoing study and reporting imposed by both the state and federal governments are adequate.”
“Mining projects of this magnitude will have negative impacts and undesired consequences on the environment, particularly in the immediate vicinity of the mine However I have come to the view that those consequences are outweighed by the benefits that will flow from the development of the mine.”
Bruce Currie said: “The mine threatens the precious groundwater on which our cattle property and other farming businesses in the area depend. My wife and I have worked too long and too hard just to walk away. This is just total injustice.”
He said changes to Queensland water laws made it “even easier for big miners to rob farmers of groundwater”. He said the system was rigged against farmers, as the Queensland government rolled out “the red carpet for big mining companies like Adani which was recently granted free and unlimited groundwater”. Without water, he said, farmers’ livelihoods would be destroyed.
Annette Currie said: “It’s not necessarily the mining we object to … I just think there are other more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of generating electricity.”