GVK Hancock to defend mine against environmental concerns

THOUSANDS of jobs hang in the balance as environmental activists demand a planned mega-mine project be held responsible for pollution caused by its coal.

In a Land Court case expected to last up to three weeks, GVK Hancock will defend the environmental credibility of its planned $3.2 billion Alpha mine, capable of exporting 30 million tonnes of coal each year.

Leading the charge is the Coast and Country Association Queensland, backed by Queensland's Environmental Defenders' Office.

The case also features landholders, an activist and the Mackay Conservation Group who are fighting the Alpha project.

Coast and Country is asking the court to revoke Alpha's approved mining lease and environmental authority.

Their opponent is GVK Hancock, owned by Indian conglomerate GVK, and Australia's richest woman Gina Rinehart.

The promise of 1500 jobs to build the mine plus 800 once operational was trumpeted by the Queensland Government when it gave its approval.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, believe GVK Hancock should be made accountable for the pollution eventually caused by its coal.

The Land Court heard on Monday the Alpha project will release 859,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year on the site, once operational.

Taking into account the burning of its exported coal, its emissions increase by 60 million tonnes.

On the first day of proceedings, barrister Damian Clothier QC said Alpha's 30 million tonnes of exported coal adds up to just 0.05% of global coal production.

Mr Clothier said given the worldwide demand for coal, any reduction in coal production would be quickly filled by a competitor.

The case continues.

QUICK FACTS:

What each side are expected to argue:

Environmental activists:

  • GVK Hancock's $3.2b Alpha mine must be stopped.
  • Its 30 million tonnes of coal exported each year will create 60 million tonnes of carbon emissions.
  • Underground water supplies to be affected.
  • It is just one of 10 mines planned - this case could ensure all are held more accountable.

GVK Hancock:

  • The mine has federal and state approvals.
  • Emissions from exported coal are not in Australia's jurisdiction.
  • It will create 2300 jobs in construction and operation plus more for rail and port infrastructure.
  • Expert analysis shows water impacts can be minimised

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