D Day for Galilee Coal project

OPTIMIST: Capricorn Conservation Council’s Michael McCabe hopes Bimblebox Nature Refuge will not be mined.
OPTIMIST: Capricorn Conservation Council’s Michael McCabe hopes Bimblebox Nature Refuge will not be mined. Chris Ison Rokcconservatio

TODAY is the day Federal Environmental Minister Greg Hunt will announce his decision on whether to approve Clive Palmer's controversial Galilee Coal project.

The $8.8 billion development is located near Alpha, and would involve mining the Bimblebox Nature Refuge.

Capricorn Conservation Council coordinator Michael McCabe said the area was the last remaining area of Desert Upland that hadn't been cleared.

"In my extreme optimism I would hope he (Greg Hunt) will reject the project," he said.

"What tends to happen with coal mines is they are approved, but they bring in massive conditions … (but) any approval with conditions actually represents an acknowledgement of environmental harm.

"When we have so many massive projects happening all at once it's impossible for scientists to keep up with what's happening."

The Bimblebox Nature Reserve was bought by members of the public with the help of the former Howard government's federal minister Robert Hill, who contributed funds on the basis the state government withdraw clearing permits and protect the area in perpetuity.

This term was used in the contract and means the land would be protected forever.

"The state has already reneged … if the Federal Government does, it would be a disgrace in terms of the public perception of that (word)," Mr McCabe said.

"It would create a sense of mistrust in any future government."

The development also raises environmental concerns over groundwater supply to local properties and loss of habitat for a range of species, some of which are endangered.

Waratah Coal has proposed offsetting Bimblebox, however the proposed offset areas are in existing bushland which conservationists say would mean a net loss of biodiversity.

A spokesman from the minister's office said they did not comment on upcoming decisions.


History of Binblebox

IT'S been more than 10 years since the 8000ha Bimblebox Nature Refuge was purchased by landholders concerned with sustainable land management.

The federal government's National Reserve System program contributed two thirds of the purchase price, and the Bimblebox Nature Refuge Agreement was signed with the state government in 2002.

The aim of the agreement was to protect the conservation values, however it did not prevent mining.

In 2007 Waratah Coal announced they would begin exploration drilling there.

Clive Palmer acquired Waratah Coal in 2008, and in 2011 the company released an Environmental Impact Statement which revealed plans to clear more than half of Bimblebox for its coal mining operations, and to underground "longwall'' mine the remainder. Their Supplementary EIS, released in May, saw no changes to this plan.

Topics:  bimblebox clive palmer environment