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Our Successes · Energy & Climate

Stricter groundwater conditions: Alpha coal mine

08 April, 2014

EDO Qld represented Coast and Country Association Qld (CCAQ) in their objection to the Alpha coal project. The Land Court of Queensland heard the objections to the mine in 2013 and upheld concerns regarding groundwater impacts of the mine recommending that the applications for the mine be refused or, alternatively, that the applications be granted subject to further assessment of the groundwater impacts.

This case involved a landmark challenge by local graziers and conservation groups against the large coal mine proposed to be constructed in the Galilee Basin of central Queensland. From 16 September to 2 October 2013, the Queensland Land Court heard objections to the approval of the Mining Lease (ML) and Environmental Authority (EA) for the proposed mine.

A number of objections were received, including from graziers around the property such asBruce and Annette Currie andJaneice Anderson, who objected to the potential impacts of the proposed mine on groundwater. Paola Cassoni, who operates theBimblebox Nature Refuge and cattle property to the south of the mine, objected on the basis of groundwater impacts and other environmental impacts of the mine. A number of conservation groups also objected to the proposed mine on the basis of groundwater impacts and the contribution that the mine would make to climate change.

EDO Qld solicitors, along with barristers Mr Adrian Finanzio SC, Mr Rupert Watters, and Dr Chris McGrath, represented community group Coast and Country Association Qld (CCAQ) in their objection to mine on three bases: groundwater, climate change and economics.

On groundwater, CCAQ argued that Hancock’s conceptualisation of the regional groundwater system is contradicted by the data, the groundwater modelling was unreliable because of this and other unfounded model inputs, and therefore the impact assessment based on this model is flawed. On this basis it was argued that insufficient information has been produced to support a decision to approve the mine.

Hancock argued that extensive data collection and assessments demonstrate that there would be no significant impact upon groundwater; that deeper groundwater would be available to satisfy make good agreements after drawdown, and that future monitoring would take care of future issues.

The Queensland Land Court recommended that the Queensland Government either reject the project or approve it subject to stricter groundwater conditions. The Court was unable to say on the evidence just how far interference with groundwater would extend, so took a precautionary approach to protect landholders.

This case shows the importance of public objection rights and independent review by courts of large projects.

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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