Wandoan's climate change challenge

CONSERVATIONISTS will argue in a landmark court case in Brisbane today that Xstrata Coal’s proposed $3 billion, 30 million tonnes per annum Wandoan thermal coal project in the Surat Basin should not go ahead because it could contribute to climate change.
Wandoan's climate change challenge Wandoan's climate change challenge Wandoan's climate change challenge Wandoan's climate change challenge Wandoan's climate change challenge

Wandoan project, image courtesy of Xstrata Coal.

Lou Caruana

This is despite Xstrata managing director Mick Davis recently saying that Wandoan is a world-class development and a growth engine for the company that could be in production by 2015.

Friends of the Earth spokesman Bradley Smith said the group would argue the mine made a mockery of the federal government's attempts to combat climate change.

"We know it will have an impact," he told the ABC.

"On one hand we have ... the Australian government trying to do something about climate change because it's a huge problem. On the other hand we have this unregulated digging up of, and burning of, coal.

"We're hoping that by presenting that evidence, the judge can make a decision and either recommend that the mine be stopped or at least start to draw the link between these coal mines and climate change.”

In a statement Xstrata said: “Objections have been received on issues including: the impacts of mining, greenhouse gas emissions associated with the mining and subsequent burning of the coal, road access to landholder properties, effects on cattle, and groundwater impacts.

“Xstrata Coal has followed a rigorous environmental assessment and review process throughout each stage of the mining lease application process in accordance with all legislative requirements.”

The Wandoan coal project received conditional environmental approval from the Queensland Co-ordinator General under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act in November 2010.

It subsequently also received conditional environmental approval from the Commonwealth government in March 2011.

The approvals process includes an ability for any party to object to the granting of the mining leases and the draft environmental authority for the project, prior to the final determination on whether the mining leases should be granted, Xstrata said.

The mining lease application area covers approximately 32,000 hectares.

The proposed mine would include an open-cut coal mine, a coal handling and preparation plant, and support facilities.

With an expected life of more than 30 years, it would produce thermal coal that would be exported around the world or sold to the domestic market. It is anticipated that around 30 million run-of-mine tonnes of coal would be mined at Wandoan annually.

Davis said the Wandoan project had tenements in Queensland’s Surat Basin which were equivalent in size to the active mining area of the entire Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

“The project has a proven resource base of more than 1 billion tonnes to underpin thermal coal exports from an initial stage of up to 22 million tonnes per annum,” he said.

“The project’s massive reserve and resource base supports options to expand production very substantially to over 100 million tonnes based on a mine life of 30 years.

“Further approvals will be required before we can take the construction decision and when done, will acquire additional infrastructure to open up the Surat Basin.

“And to this end, an environmental impact study for the Surat Basin rail was approved at the end of last year and proposed Wiggins Island coal terminals offer potential port capacity.

“The feasibility study into phase one of the development of Wandoan will be completed in the first half of next year and the first phase of production could be around 2015.”