Hogsback on Olive Downs

HOGSBACK reckons the Olive Downs coking coal project, which got the tick this week from the Queensland government, escaped the environmentalists’ protests because its developer, Pembroke Resources, is a little Aussie battler.
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This is in stark contrast to Indian company Adani which, protestors claims has a dubious record on environmental management and corporate governance.


They also claim Adani's proposed Carmichael mine will open the flood gates of development in the Galilee Basin by Chinese interests and other sundry players such as Clive Palmer and Gina Rhinehart.


They will build massive thermal coal mines and export it all overseas and leave Queensland with a big gaping hole while endangering the black-throated finch.   


Olive Downs is run by Barry Tudor who claims to have cooperated fully with the regulators and the local indigenous group, the Barada Barna Aboriginal Corporation, as well as meticulously covering off on environmental requirements.


About 55 square kilometres of koala habitat will be cleared, with the Queensland coordinator-general recommending a significant offset to protect the vulnerable species. The mine site also includes 11 highly significant wetlands.


However, Hogsback wonders why environmentalist groups have been so quiet about this and whether they even bothered to read the environmental impact statement for the Olive Downs project.


Surely the koala, which is the mascot of most of our sporting teams and loved by tourists who visit Australia and clamour to be photographed with it, has more appeal than the obscure black-throated finch. 


The Greens MP for the inner west Brisbane seat of Maiwar Michael Berkman was at pains to play up the climate change angle but assiduously avoided the koala issue. 


"The conversation gets really messy when people fail to distinguish between thermal coal and coking coal," he said.


"If you look at the existing mines in the Bowen Basin, the vast majority of coal being produced there is metallurgical coal.  


"This is a different story [than Adani]. We don't have the same sorts of immediate alternatives to move away from the use of coking coal in steel production. We need to do is immediately put a stop to thermal coal in Queensland."


Lock the Gate Alliance mine rehabilitation coordinator Rick Humphries said the decision to let Olive Downs leave three un-rehabilitated pit voids on the Isaac River floodplain was a ticking time bomb that represented a real long-term threat to the river and downstream users.


Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Gavan McFadzean said the environment movement could only campaign on so many coal projects at any one time and it had to be selective on which ones it targeted.


"We don't like any coal mine being approved ... it's a question of where the project is," he told the ABC.


AME Research resources analyst Lloyd Hain thinks there is not much traction in the media for attacking a small Australian company doing a coking coal mine in the existing Bowen Basin.


"I think the environmental groups are choosing battles where they can get the most attention," he told the ABC.


Hogsback reckons the environmental movement's fixation on Adani, foreign mining companies, and climate change has left it asleep at the wheel when it comes to other important issues such as the koala and other endangered species and the parlous state of the Murray Darling Basin.