Legal challenge against new Xstrata coal mine at Wandoan

Late last week Friends of the Earth Brisbane lodged an objection in the Queensland Land Court against development of a massive open cut coal mine proposed by Xstrata Coal for west of Wandoan in South West Queensland, citing the contribution this mine will make to severe weather events through greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.

Related: Queensland's coal addiction - a talk by Guy Pearse | Coal and Climate Campaign - Queensland's coal industry overview

Spokeperson for Friends of the Earth, Dr John Mackenzie said "The mining and burning of this coal, whether used domestically or overseas, will create absolutely massive greenhouse gas emissions of 1.3 billion carbon dioxide equivalents over its life. This is not up for dispute - it's clearly stated in the Environmental Impact Assessment statement."

The proposed mine will be one of the largest in the southern hemishere covering 32 hectares and planned to produce 30 million tonnes of coal per year, almost double the largest coal mine presently operating in the state. The project is a joint venture comprising partners Xstrata, ICRA Wandoan Pty Ltd and Sumisho Coal Australia.

The Queensland government granted approval for this mine on February 8, 2011.

"Approval of this lease and environmental authority will contribute to significant and irreversible damage to Queensland's iconic natural heritage, like the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics, which will impact negatively on our economy and employment, especially in regions that rely on tourism." said Mackenzie.

"But the more pressing issue concerns the contribution that this mine will make to the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Queensland is still reeling from the recently experienced severe storms, cyclones and floods. We have only just begun to assess the costs of these events in economic terms."

"Severe storms and freakish weather events such as the 2011 Brisbane Floods and severe tropical cyclone Yasi are expected to become more frequent due to warmer ocean waters and the warmer atmosphere caused by human caused climate change, thereby damaging Queensland's infrastructure, cities and towns."

"This mine will destroy some of western Queensland's prime grazing land, which has been productively farmed for generations. By 2030, production from agriculture and forestry is projected to decline over much of southern and eastern Australia due to increased drought and fire, thereby damaging Queensland's economy and lowering employment."

"By taking this up this legal challenge, Friends of the Earth is saying, it's urgent to say no to this mine considering the serious adverse impacts of climate change on Queensland and the rest of the world." concluded Mackenzie.

The case has been taken on by the Environmental Defenders office. Solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg said "It's a David and Goliath battle against major mining interests. Our small team is proud to support Friends of the Earth Brisbane to make this objection helping to point the need to transition to an economy based on renewable energy, rather than approving another massive coal mine."

Background:

* 4 Jun 2010 Xstrata Wandoan coal on hold due to poor planning not tax, say environmentalists
* Qld Department of Loca Government and Planning - Wandoan Coal Mine Project overview
* Xstrata Wandoan Coal Project

* Adapted from Friends of the Earth media release, March 1, 2011 - Friends of the Earth take Xstrata to court

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