$8.3b coal plan eats into nature refuge

Eight cattle properties are covered by Waratah Coal’s China First Project. The EIS for the mammoth Galilee Basin mine was released on Saturday.
Eight cattle properties are covered by Waratah Coal’s China First Project. The EIS for the mammoth Galilee Basin mine was released on Saturday.

CLIVE Palmer's Waratah Coal has released its Environmental Impact Statement for the China First Galilee Basin Project - a mammoth $8.3 billion proposal involving four open cut pits and two underground operations set to bring billions of dollars in revenue to the state.

The proposed mine site is located on eight beef cattle properties with an average area of about 70sq km for each.

Three of the properties are managed as a single entity and one, Bimblebox Nature Refuge, is jointly managed as a wildlife refuge with sustainable cattle grazing.

Of the eight, Waratah is expected to acquire two in full and one in part - Bimblebox. The remaining properties will be able to continue cattle operations despite underground mining and associated above-ground mine infrastructure, the EIS stated.

But the Capricorn Conservation Council has slammed the plan and suggested that what is left of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge will be at risk of subsidence due to underground operations underneath.

CCC co-ordinator Michael McCabe said Bimblebox would be "devastated" after 52% of the refuge was cleared to make way for an open-cut pit.

"We need answers from both levels of government about their commitment to protecting nature reserves and their roles in ensuring ecological resilience," Mr McCabe said.

"What is the Federal Government going to do to make sure Bimblebox Nature Refuge is not mined? Will the $300,000 plus of tax payers money be recovered and reapplied to nature conservation if mining is allowed?"

It seems billionaire Mr Palmer has already thought about this argument and proposed a solution.

In an act that may appear to the some as the ability to move worlds, Mr Palmer has proposed to purchase another property of the same size as Bimblebox that will act as an offset to environmental losses.

But this apparent goodwill did little to please Mr McCabe and the CCC.

"Waratah's solution to the destruction of a nature refuge is quite bizarre," Mr McCabe said.

"The deception is that the declaration of a nature refuge over an offset area gives it no more protection from mining than is available to the existing Bimblebox NR, zilch."

He said mining companies were exploiting a "ridiculous" loophole.

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