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Huge coal project clears important green hurdle

Queensland gives environmental approval for controversial 30m-tonnes-a-year thermal coal mine
Reuters in Melbourne
May 30, 2012

India’s GVK Power & Infrastructure has cleared an important hurdle toward developing its A$6.4 billion (HK$49 billion) Alpha coal project, winning state environmental approval for what would be one of Australia’s biggest coal mines.

GVK’s Alpha project has made the most progress towards development approval among several in the untapped Galilee Basin in Queensland, where the rival Indian group Adani Enterprises is planning a A$10.9 billion coal and rail project.

The Alpha project is being run by Hancock Coal, which is 79 per cent owned by GVK and 21 per cent owned by Asia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, who sparked a political storm last week when she won the right to hire foreign workers to build an iron ore mine.

The Queensland coal project still needs approval from the federal government in Canberra and a mining lease from the state to go ahead.

The Galilee Basin projects have been slow to win approvals, with opposition from environmentalists concerned about coal burning, port dredging and ship traffic along the fragile Great Barrier Reef, as well as from landowners

Greenpeace senior campaigner John Hepburn, promising to continue fighting against the mine, said: “We don’t think GVK knew what they were getting into when they bought a majority stake in this mine.”

The approval from Queensland’s co-ordinator-general sets out 128 conditions for managing environmental impacts from building the 30 million-tonnes-a-year thermal coal mine and a 495-kilometre rail line from the mine to the port of Abbot Point.

Hancock Coal’s spokesman, Chris Bombolas, said: “It’s another step towards getting a mining lease and final approvals.” Hancock Coal is looking to sell down its stakes in the Alpha coal project and related port and rail assets to help fund the A$10 billion cost of the projects, with interest seen from Asian coal buyers, the company’s chief executive, Paul Mulder, said in March.

Queensland’s deputy premier, Jeff Seeney, said in a statement: “There’ll be an estimated A$11 billion boost to the economy during the mine’s three-year construction phase.” Construction was expected to run from 2013 to 2016, he said.

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