In brief: The 8000 hectare Bimblebox Nature Refuge is threatened by a massive new coal development proposed by Waratah Coal, owned by Clive Palmer (business man and Member for Fairfax in the Federal Parliament between Sept 2013 and July 2016).
The company has announced that its ‘China First’ mine (otherwise known as the ‘Galilee Coal Project’) would involve open cut mining more than half of Bimblebox Nature Refuge and underground mining the remainder.
The proposal involves extracting 40 mega-tonnes of coal per year, which would be transported on a yet-to-be-built 468km rail line up to Abbot Point and shipped through the Great Barrier Reef on its way to China where it will be burnt for energy generation.
This enormous and destructive proposal got the green light from the Queensland Government in August 2013, and the Federal Government on 19th December 2013.
More about Bimblebox: Bimblebox Nature Refuge is a peaceful 8000 hectare sanctuary in central west Queensland (hear the sounds of Bimblebox bird song at dawn here). It’s located approximately 30km north west of the town of Alpha.
It’s composed of remnant semi-arid woodlands with an understorey largely made up of native shrubs, forbs and grasses, and has a rich diversity of birds (more than 150 species recorded so far), reptiles and other animals. In May 2011 a flock of endangered Black Throated Finch (Poephila cincta cincta) was sighted on Bimblebox, which has been confirmed by Birds Australia.
Bimblebox is a genuine example of how production and biodiversity conservation can co-exist. A small herd of beef cattle assist in the control of exotic pasture grasses, and a number of long-term research projects are aimed at generating knowledge and management practices to improve outcomes for biodiversity across the region.
Bimblebox was secured in 2000, an era when Queensland’s land clearing rates were amongst the highest in the world. It was purchased with the savings of a number of concerned individuals, as well as funding from the Australian National Reserve System program. In 2002, the Bimblebox Nature Refuge Agreement (category VI IUCN protected area) was signed with the Queensland state government to permanently protect the conservation values of the property. Tragically, Nature Refuges and the protected areas that make up the National Reserve System are not automatically protected from mineral exploration and mining, which in Australia are granted right of way over almost all other land uses. The Bimblebox team has lodged comments on the Queensland Draft Biodiversity Strategy for Queensland addressing this very issue.
Waratah Coal has an exploration permit that covers all of Bimblebox and parts of the surrounding properties. In late September 2011 the company released its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project. It detailed plans to extract 40 mega-tonnes of coal per year, which will be transported on a yet-to-be-built rail line up to Abbot Point and shipped through the Great Barrier Reef on its way to China where it will be burnt for energy generation. The ambitious and polluting plans got the green light from the Queensland Government in August 2013, and by the Federal Government on 19 December 2013. It is absurd that in the 21st Century, with all that we know about Australia’s biodiversity crisis and the threat of climate change, that a protected area rich in biodiversity and with carbon stores intact could be sacrificed for the sake of producing more climate changing coal.
If Bimblebox survives the current coal mine threat, it is likely to continue to be an important long-term research site, an example of sustainable rangeland grazing, and one of the very few large areas of intact remnant habitat remaining in the bioregion. It will also serve as a test case as to whether the Queensland State and Australian Federal governments are willing to alter out-dated legislation so that conservation values are considered to be at least of similar importance to the state as large mining projects.
The following information describes in dot points the history of Bimblebox Nature Refuge, its regional significance, threatened species, species of conservation significance and biodiversity in general. It answers many questions and is useful for supporters writing submissions, the media and anyone with an interest in Bimblebox. Read below, or download here.
- Relevant History
- The 8000 hectare Glen Innes Station was bought for the explicit purpose of saving it from land clearing in 2000 by a group of concerned citizens and nearby landowners.
- The Federal Government wanted the property to be part of the National Reserve System of Protected Areas in recognition of its high conservation values, and they contributed around $300,000.
- A perpetual Nature Refuge Agreement was signed with the Qld State Government in 2003 and Glen Innes Station became Bimblebox Nature Refuge.
- In 2007 Waratah Coal became interested in developing a massive open cut and underground thermal coal mine on Bimblebox, and in 2008 exploratory drilling began.
- In late 2013, the Galilee Coal Project (aka China First Mine) was approved by State and Federal Governments (approval viable until 2073).
- Current State legislation does not provide any protection for the ecological riches above ground.
- Since 2007, the daily workload on Bimblebox has been compounded by the struggle to save the property from mining. The owners were grateful to a handful of great passionate people who made their time available to help in the following:
- writing letters to the scientists who had conducted research on Bimblebox asking for their support;
- writing letters to and meeting with the Queensland Premier and relevant State and Federal ministers and the International Union for Conservation of Nature;
- writing submissions to both federal and state departments;
- writing letters and articles to newspaper and journals;
- conducting media interviews, launching petitions, making contact with many NGOs, distributing information posters and postcards, making contact with other affected landholders and interested organisations; participating in rallies;
- setting up a website, Facebook page and Twitter account;
- Commissioning the documentary ‘Bimblebox’ by Mike O’Connell, released nationally and internationally; speaking at many national screenings; later two 5-minute online videos on Bimblebox, one by Tangible Media and one by Wendy Rogers;
- Meeting with concerned people and landholders, attending mining information sessions, visiting the port development area of Abbot Point and Caley wetlands;
- Birds Australia, botanists, ecologists, zoologists and other volunteers visited Bimblebox many times to help in the surveying and recording of species;
- Stalls to raise awareness and funds;
- Recording the damage from the exploration holes on the Nature Refuge and lodged a formal complaint with state environmental agency EHP;
- Engaging with Waratah ecologists, surveyors and hydrologists at the Nature Refuge (some were asked to leave);
- In 2013, calling for proper scrutiny to be given to the ‘opening up’ of the Galilee Basin by objecting in the Land Court in Brisbane to the Alpha Coal Project, the first of the 9 mega mines in the Galilee Basin to receive government approval, and located just twelve kilometres north of Bimblebox. In a landmark recommendation in April 2014, the approval was refused, or approved with additional conditions, but the decision was later overturned by the State;
- Epic work by Maureen Cooper, another nature refuge owner, included the editing, publishing and financing of the book ‘Bimblebox: A Nature Refuge under Siege‘ (2013). She donated the sales to the cause, and has another ongoing fundraiser by creating various articles which have creatures and plants of Bimblebox appliqued and embroidered on to them;
- Late 2014 saw the founding of The Bimblebox Alliance Inc (TBA). The protection of Bimblebox becomes the starting point to secure protection for all Queensland conservation areas under threat from the expansion of extractive industries and other inappropriate development;
- Artist Jill Sampson instigated annual artist camps at Bimblebox, culminating in exhibitions in many Australian Art Galleries. Another project by Jill is to do with the 153 birds species found on Bimblebox thus far;
- During the Queensland election in January 2015, we wrote to the candidates asking them to protect nature refuges from mining.
- Reasons for regional significance
- Located in the Desert Uplands, a Biodiversity Hotspot, but where less than 5% of the area is held in conservation reserves;
- Is one of the largest tracts of intact remnant woodland (Poplar Box/Silver-leaf Iron Bark) in the Jericho subregion of the Desert Uplands;
- On the eastern edge of the Desert Uplands bioregion, it is an important stepping stone between the Brigalow Belt and the Desert Uplands bioregion.
- Threatened species:
- A flock of Endangered (by EPBC listing) Black-throated Finch (Poephila cincta cincta) was sighted by a Birds Australia observer in May 2011. This is a highly significant record due to its southern extent. The last record at a similar latitude was in Rockhampton in 2004. The species’ range used to extend right down into NSW.
- There are also Near Threatened (by EPA listing) Black-chinned Honeyeater, Black-necked Stork and Large-podded Tick-trefoil, a plant species.
- Squatter Pigeon, which are Vulnerable (by EPBC listing) have also been sighted on the property.
- Species of conservation significance regionally (by EPA listing)
- Twelve bird species which, significantly, comprise over 50% of bird species of conservation significance in the Desert Uplands.
- Four mammal species: Common Dunnart, Spectacled Hare Wallaby, Rufous Bettong and Koala.
- At least one reptile, the Mulga Snake (Pseudechis australis).
- Biodiversity more generally:
- 153 bird species have been found on the property so far;
- Has one of the most diverse flora communities in the region;
- Abundant and diverse population of reptiles.
- Unique management
- A strong focus on biodiversity conservation in co-existence with cattle production;
- Long-term science research projects being conducted on the property, notably from Queensland Herbarium.