Patrick Hamilton

Alpha mine on fast-track

SIGNIFICANT progress has been made in assessing the $6.4 billion Alpha Coal mine and rail project since the Federal Government took control of the process, Environment Minister Tony Burke said.

The team conducting the assessment has identified four issues that will need to be addressed under national environmental law before the Federal Government signs off on the Central Queensland project.

It's now more than a week since an angry Mr Burke labelled the Queensland Government's approval of the Alpha project as "shambolic" and "flawed".

Cooler heads prevailed in Sydney last week when Mr Burke met with his Queensland counterpart Andrew Powell, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and Coordinator-General Barry Broe.

At that meeting it was agreed the Commonwealth would take over the approval of the Central Queensland project.

Mr Burke said on Friday his department was working closely with the Gina Rinehart-owned company.

Representatives from the department have met twice with the company, last week and again on Thursday.

"My department have stopped the clock on the approval timeline whilst it seeks further information from the company," Mr Burke said.

"Stopping the clock does not mean stopping the process. In fact the process has progressed significantly during this recent period.

"This is a common practice to ensure my department has all the necessary information for a fully-informed decision. Once this additional information is provided, the clock will be restarted and a new statutory deadline will be set."

Mr Burke said he remained confident the assessment process would deliver "sound environmental protection outcomes" within the company's investment decision deadline.

Earlier this week the federal and Queensland governments agreed to changes to the bilateral agreement for future approvals.

THE ISSUES

Four key issues have been identified that need to be addressed by GVK Hancock Coal:

  • The need for more work on species habitat modelling and surveys to ensure the impacts on matters of national environmental significance, including listed migratory species in the Caley Valley Wetlands, and listed threatened species and ecological communities;
  • The need to ensure that rail loop impacts from earthworks run off, including impacts on the national and world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and on marine species, are mitigated, particularly in relation to the potential impacts on the near-shore habitat for dugongs, turtles and dolphins;
  • Clarifying the way the company's cumulative impacts studies on Abbot Point interacts with other cumulative impact studies on the port;
  • The need for an enhanced "like-for-like" offsets package.


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