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Past Court Cases · Energy & Climate

Friends of the Earth Wandoan coal mine objection (“Xstrata case”)

27 March, 2012

EDO Qld represented The Friends of the Earth – Brisbane Co-Op Ltd (FoE) in their objection to the Mining Lease (ML) and Environmental Authority (EA) for the Wandoan Coal Project, a major open-cut coal mine proposed to operate for 35 years in the Surat Basin of Queensland. FoE argued for the outright refusal of the mine due to its contribution to climate change and ocean acidification once the coal from the mine was burnt.

Xstrata Coal Queensland Pty Ltd & Ors v. Friends of the Earth - Brisbane Co-Op Ltd & Ors, and Department of Environment and Resource Management [2012] QLC 013 

On Friday 25th February, 2011, Friends of the Earth Brisbane lodged an objection against a massive open cut coal mine proposed by Xstrata Coal for west of Wandoan in Southern Queensland. EDO Qld and barrister Dr Chris McGrath are representing Friends of the Earth Brisbane in a “David and Goliath” battle that needs to be won.

The objection by FoE and other objections by neighbouring farmers was heard by the Land Court of Queensland in Brisbane, from 22 August – 31 August 2011.

Friend of the Earth Brisbane spokesperson 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”

27 March 2012 the Land Court delivered its decision. The Land Court (constituted by President MacDonald) dismissed Friend of the Earth’s objection and recommended that the mining lease and environmental authority be granted. Some changes were recommended to address concerns raised by the landholders.

President MacDonald acknowledged that climate change is clearly a matter of general public interest which may militate against the grant of a mining lease, but did not accept that emissions from the transport and use of the product coal were within the scope of the environmental impacts the court could consider under the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld) or Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld).


The mine was part of the Wandoan Coal Project proposed in 2007 by Xstrata Coal Queensland Pty Ltd and its joint venturers (taken over by Swiss mining gaint Glencorein 2013). It was proposed to be located west of the township of Wandoan, approximately 350 km northwest of Brisbane and 60 km south of Taroom.

The thermal coal deposits for the mine were estimated to be in excess of 1.2 billion tonnes and are located within three mining lease applications covering approximately 32,000 hectares.

Consultants for the applicants prepared an environmental impact statement that calculated that the mining and use of the coal would produce 1.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases.

The Friends of the Earth – Brisbane Co-Op Ltd (FoE), a conservation group, lodged an objection to the mine due to the contribution its emissions will make to climate change and ocean acidification.

Neighbouring landholders also objected to the mine due to noise, dust, groundwater and other issues; however, these objections are not the focus here.

FoE appealed the decision to the Land Appeal Court but discontinued the appeal before a decision was reached.

For more information see the following educational site: http://envlaw.com.au/wandoan-coal-mine-case/

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

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