Colton Coal Mine Proposal
Fight Against Proposed Colton Coal Mine not over yet!!!
The controversial proposed Colton Coal mine hit a snag three weeks ago when the Department of Environment and Resource Management sent the Environmental Management Plan (EMP), submitted by Northern Energy Corporation (NEC), back to the drawing board because the EMP had not adequately address how NEC could mitigate the environmental impacts to Ground water and discharges of contaminated water to the Mary River. NEC has 12 months to re-submit the EMP to DERM demonstrating how they can effectively mitigate the impacts, if this cannot be done, an Environmental Authority (EA) will not be issued and permission to extract coal will not be given.
NEC reported to the media this week that they are still very confident to extraction will begin in early 2012, though without approval this simply will not occur. WBBCC’s stance is that this fight is simply not over yet and we will continue to lobby the government to not approve this project. Members of WBBCC will meet with senior DERM beuracrats next week to discuss our concerns regarding the environmental impacts that will result from this project, should it be approved.
The Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities announced last week that the project would not be listed as a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC). Though WBBCC is disapointed with this decision, the environmental constraints surrounding the project are largely covered by State Legislation and without State approval, the project will not proceed regardless of the Federal decision.
NEC may be increasingly confident that nothing stands in the way of their project being approved but they must not forget that WBBCC simply does not rest until we achieve the desired outcome and for us, that is, NO MINING in the Wide Bay Burnett! We would suggest that NEC take a good look at the Traveston Dam scenario. People power and an intricate knowledge of legislation and environmental law stopped that project and we will not give in until this project is merely a distant memory of something to never came to fruition.
NEC Lodges EMP
The Northern Energy Corporation announced that it had formally lodged its Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) on 12 August 2010. NEC had originally planned to submit the EMP to DERM in April but a number of issues needed to be further explored before the EMP could be finalised.
To download a full copy of the EMP or individual sections, please click on the link below:
WBBCC meets with Federal Environment Minister to discuss Colton Coal Project
WBBCC President Roger Currie and Coordinator Emma-Kate Currie, met with Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett on the 23rd July 2010, to discuss the Colton Coal Project and the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposal. As the Project footprint is in close proximity to the headwaters of the Susan River, which is the designated boundary of the RAMSAR listed wetlands of the Great Sandy Strait, the project is likely to trigger the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC). This means that if a project, development or action has the potential to impact upon ‘Matters of National Environment Significance’ (MNES) then it must be referred and assessed under the EPBC Act. An example of this Act in action, is the proposed Traveston Crossing Dam. Although it was given approval by the Queensland Coordinator General subject to 1200 conditions, it had to be assessed under the EPBC Act because of the potential impacts to the Federally listed threatened species such as the Queensland Lungfish and the Mary River Turtle. After the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage an the Arts (DEWHA) carefully assessed the proposal under the Act, Minister Garrett made the decision not to approve the proposed dam as the potential impacts to the Matters of National Environmental Significance outweighed the benefit of constructing the dam.
When WBBCC President Roger Currie explained the proposal to the Minister and presented numerous maps outlining the proximity to the RAMSAR Boundary and The Mary River, the Minister showed great concern for how the proposal will impact upon the MNES. Open Cut mining results in accumulated water from the aquifer as a result of the extraction process. This water has to be collected and discharged somewhere as it is such a substantial amount of water that it is not practical to store it on site. With this project, the options are to discharge into the Susan River, Saltwater Creek or the Mary River. The Susan River drains into the Internationally listed RAMSAR Wetlands of the Great Sandy Strait, Salt Water Creek drains into the Mary River and the Mary River also drains into the RAMSAR Wetlands. This means that unless NEC can gain permission to store the water on site in a 800 Hectare dam (which is very unlikely), they will have to plan to discharge the contaminated water into one of the three waterways near by, which will trigger the project to be assessed under the EPBC Act. Prior to the recent ellection, the then Minister informed WBBCC that his department was already in correspondence with NEC regarding the potential EPBC triggers. This process will continue with the new Minister Tony Burke as head of the department.
The EMP will be assessed by DERM and they will either release a Draft Environmental Authority (EA) for public comment or they will ask NEC to provide further documentation to demonstrate how they can mitigate, or prevent, the potential environmental impacts. If a Draft EA is granted and opened for public comment, WBBCC will become a legal objector in the Mining Court on environmental grounds. Stay posted and we will update you on the progress of this issue.
The Background Story
In late January 2010, the Northern Energy Corporation lodged an application for 2 mining leases to extract 500,000 tonnes of coking coal per annum via an open cut coal mine 10km north of the town of Maryborough.
The proposed extraction site is situated:
- within 10,000 hectares of a pristine ecosystem that happens to be ‘unallocated state land’,
- in the middle of 2 ‘Biodiversity and Planning Assessment Corridors (BPA)’ that are intended to act as a safe corridor for Endangered, Vulnerable and Rare species (EV&R) such as Koalas,
- and only 7 km from the head waters of The Susan River, which happens to be the boundary of the RAMSAR Wetlands of the Great Sandy Strait, which are federally protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC), the same Act that WBBCC alleges Burnett Water has breached for the protection of Lungfish, brang about the Paradise Dam Legal Case.
The extraction site is also situated a mere 2.5 km from the community of Aldershot which houses around 1000 people. A fair percentage of Aldershot residents are against this proposal as they have legitimate reason to believe the mine will impact upon their health, well being and property values. For more information on Aldershot Residents and their concerns, please follow link to ‘Aldershot and Districts Against Mining’ :
NEC is required to lodge an Environmental Managment Plan (EMP) to the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) that outlines how they will mitigate any potential impacts to Biodiversity, Water Quality, Noise and Dust Pollution. The EMP has not yet been lodged though it was due to be submitted in April. Once the EMP has been lodged with DERM, they will assess it and either release a draft Environmental Authority (EA) for public comment, or they will refuse to grant the authority. If a draft EA is released for public comment, WBBCC will become a legal objector in the Mining Court on Environmental grounds.
The Colton Coal Mine, should it be approved and constructed, has grave implications for the Fraser Coast, not only affecting the environment and health of the nearby residents. If the mine is constructed, it will have to discharge water either into the Susan River, Salt Water Creek or the Mary River, all of which flow into the Great Sandy Strait. The Fraser Coasts Recreational and Commercial Fishing, Seafood, Whale Watching and Tourism industries all rely on the health of the Mary River Estuary and the Great Sandy Strait to provide fish and seafood stocks and to maintain the water quality of the Great Sandy Marine Park which joins Fraser Island and the mainland. An estimate $60M per year is generated in the Fraser Coast from Tourism alone, let alone what the Fishing and Seafood industries bring to our region. That far out ways any economic benefit this coal mine could bring to our region, and considering the risk that the mine poses to our other economic interests, The Fraser Coast would certainly be better off without it.
Foreshore Vegetation in The Fraser Coast
The Esplanade Business owners, a handfull of locals and the regions largest newspaper, The Fraser Coast Chronicle (FCC), have been lobbying the Fraser Coast Regional Council (FCRC) to ‘tidy up’ the foreshore of Hervey Bay as they feel it is bad for business and looks untidy. The editor of the newspaper, Peter Chapman, took the lobbying one step further and conducted a survey in the paper asking residents whether they thought the foreshore should be ‘tidied up’? This move in itself is not concerning as newspapers frequently run surveys and polls, but this editor took the survey to the FCRC and demanded that they take action because the results were in favour of a clean up.
It is not the Fraser Coast Chronicles place to apply pressure to a regional council to do anything. The media’s role is to report on an issue and to do so unbiasedly and to clearly demonstrate both sides of the argument. Media is bound by a code of conduct, as is most industries in today’s societies, and the FCC may well be in breach of their code by continuously reporting in favor of developers and now by attempting to apply pressure to the FCRC to clean up the foreshore.
The foreshore is already very ‘park like’ in many places with adequate recreation areas, clear views to the ocean and provides clearly signed designated access to the beach. The FCRC is already struggling to maintain the park like areas as there is a massive amount of grass to mow, weed and garden beds to tend. The FCRC has increased the surface area that is sprayed with weed killer tenfold in the past few years in an effort to keep up with the every increasing responsibility to maintain these areas. This in itself is not good for the foreshore, so it is logical that an increase to park land along the foreshore, will incur and increase of the application of poison and a lot more grass to mow. From a conservation perspective, the WBBCC believes the foreshore should remain as it is. We are fortunate to be one of the few coastal towns in Queensland that has left some foreshore as a buffer against erosion, storm surge inundation and salt spray and we should not consider altering this balance any further just because a few businesses think it should occur. They aren’t proposing that we remove the vegetation all together, but that we remove weeds, branches and low lying shrubs to achieve the ‘parkland look’. What they don’t understand is that although the understory, dead branches and climbing vines might look untidy to the perfectionist eye, it is providing essential protection against accelerating the speed of erosion, wind gusts and acts as a buffer against some flooding. The less vegetation there is on the foreshore, the faster the rate of erosion will occur and during extreme tidal movement, areas that are only grassed will tear apart significantly faster that areas that are densely vegetated.
Great Sandy Biosphere Tainted By Donations From Coal Company
‘The Great Sandy Biosphere’ was officially declared as the worlds 15th Biosphere reserve in May 2009 by the United Nations Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The objective of the Great Sandy Biosphere reserve is to give world recognition to our outstanding natural beauty and high levels of biodiversity in the region as well and encouraging conservation and sustainable development.
When the Burnett Mary Regional Group learned that the nomination had been successful and the region would be declared as a Biosphere, the former Chair of the Group, Mr Russell Stewart said “We now have to keep our promises and make sure the Great Sandy Biosphere becomes a model for sustainability.”
The Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) in conjunction with the University of Queensland is running a series of Biosphere workshops in our region over the next few months based upon addressing “How can we use this status to create a more sustainable future- to promote harmony between people and nature and maintain the livability of the biosphere?”
These workshops were advertised as being supported by ‘BMRG’, ‘University of QLD’ and ‘Bundaberg Sugar’, however it was announced at the workshop in Maryborough on Tuesday 26-10-10 that they workshops were financed by donations from Bundaberg Sugar and The Northern Energy Corporation, the Mining Development Firm responsible for the proposed Colton Coal mine north of Maryborough.
Northern Energy Corporation (NEC) proposes to extract 500,000 tonnes of coking coal per annum from the site located a mere 2.5km from the town of Aldershot and plans to discharge contaminated water into the Mary River which flows directly into the Great Sandy RAMSAR Wetlands in the heart of the Great Sandy Biosphere.
When contacted, the BMRG confirmed that NEC had donated $5000 towards the costs of facilitating the workshops and that BMRG had in fact approached NEC and asked for a donation. Bundaberg Sugar has donated $5000 and Hyne Timber have also donated $500 towards the project.
WBBCC Coordinator Miss Emma-Kate Currie was outraged to learn that the workshops are being funded by companies that undertake activities that are damaging to the environment and was particularly concerned that BMRG had approached NEC for donations yet failed to disclose this information on the workshop fliers.
“We are outraged that BMRG has approached a corporation like NEC to fund these biosphere workshops as the proposed Colton Coal Mine has the potential to be devastating to our regions environment and flies in the face of the objectives of the Great Sandy Biosphere! It is simply un-ethical for BMRG to ask for and except donations from this company for the purpose of promoting the Great Sandy Biosphere and we will be ensuring that UNESCO is made aware of this fact. The BMRG has achieved great outcomes for environmental restoration and protection in this region via encouraging the agricultural industry to implement better management practices but we are disgusted by their decision to take money from a company who’s sole objective is to dig up our resources and turn them into pennies in the pockets of offshore investors, at the cost of our regions environment.”