Kathleen Noonan wrote a great article in the Courier Mail summing up the concerns about Bimblebox and Waratah Coal's China First mine (see below). She's right. The paperwork is sitting with the Federal Environment Minister right now and he is due to make a decision by 20th December (2013) - just in time for Christmas. Please help us pressure Greg Hunt to reject the China First mine!
Shame on this state of mine
The Courier-Mail, 09 NOV 2013, Page 32
By KATHLEEN NOONAN
CALL me old-fashioned, but I'm a bit of a believer in due process. Wild and crazy notion, I know. Yet, I believe good government relies on due process. If due process is followed, even if you disagree with the politics of the decision, you can cop it.
Ten years ago a bunch of people believed in due process too. They put up their own land in central Queensland to save it from being cleared, signing a conservation agreement with state and federal governments in perpetuity - meaning, for life.
Just repeating, they signed a legally binding agreement with the state government.
The federal government thought this land so vital, of such high conservation value, it kicked in $300,000 for the purchase.
Yes, taxpayers, our money. Since then, the land has been nurtured and protected. These people spend their time and resources restoring it. They just love it because it is conservation heartland and full of birds, including the tiny Poephila cincta cincta, the black-throated finch.
An extraordinary sighting of these 15g stocky birds was confirmed by its Atlas of Birds Project. The bird is listed as -'endangered'' by the Commonwealth.
This area is the Bimblebox Refuge, an 8000ha patch of drylands ecosystem that is brimming with biodiversity, (bimblebox.org
) near Alpha, in central Queensland.
Then, suddenly all that changed. The refuge is in the way of where Clive Palmer's Waratah Coal's 'China First'' thermal coal mine project is proposed for the Galilee Basin.
Palmer is planning four underground mines and two surface mines, covering almost 70,000ha*, exporting 40 million tonnes a year for 30 years. It is quite simply staggering in size.
(All you greenies out there might as well forget about sticking up solar panels to try to reverse global warming and reduce carbon in your own backyard because, when this baby gets going, we will literally be rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic
.) When the mine was first mooted, the little people who donated** Bimblebox land thought: Surely not, this won't go ahead because we've made an agreement with the government and due process will be followed. We're not living in Joh's Queensland anymore.
Now, this is where is all turns very interesting.
You see, Queensland's Newman Government has approved the massive China First Project. The issue of destroying the refuge didn't really pose much of hitch. A minor technicality, people.
Early in August, it was announced in a press release that the Co-ordinator-General Barry Broe had approved it.
Broe, who Premier Campbell Newman brought across from Brisbane City Council where he was divisional manager of infrastructure, has been busy this year approving many things, particularly anything huge. He's proven very handy at it.
We've got Clive's mega mine and the mega rail line, and the $15 billion liquefied natural gas plant in central Queensland, just to name a few.
In the case of Bimblebox, the landholders who signed the agreement in good faith were not informed of the decision by the State Government. They found out through the media.
Here's where it gets more interesting. The proposed mega project still has to receive an assessment from the Federal Government. It is before Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
Is this the same Greg Hunt who when commenting on climate change and bushfire intensity recently said he had 'looked up what Wikipedia'' said about it?
Yes, that's right. This Environment Minister with all the research power of his vast department turned to Wikipedia, which teachers across Australia discourage our schoolchildren from using as a primary source for assignments on the basis it is not always reliable. Hunt has to assess a federal environmental impact statement recently completed by China First. And he has to determine whether the mine complies with new laws requiring a cumulative assessment of the impact it would have on water resources before it can proceed.
The other big player in this is, of course, Palmer. What's that, you ask? Is this the same mining magnate who boasts of learning his political smarts from former premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen?
The same man who is preparing to wield his powerful four-senator balance of power voting bloc from next July and therefore is crucial to the Federal Government wanting to get through legislation? Yes, it is.
Still feeling comfortable about all this?
If the mine gets the green light it will be the first time in history a Queensland property covered by a perpetual Nature Refuge Agreement is destroyed for mineral extraction.
Now, readers, the backdrop to all this, of course, is the Greek chorus we keep hearing. Australia is open for business, says Prime Minister Tony Abbott repeatedly.
Queensland is open for business, Newman says repeatedly.
It's starting to feel like we're wide, wide open for business. (If you're a little uncomfortable with any of that "due process'', then email [Greg Hunt]
* The original article stated 700,000 ha. However the EIS for China First states that EPC1040 - Waratah Coal's exploration tenement where they propose to build the "China First" project is 72,500ha (725km2). Still a lot of country by our standards!
** A small clarification here - Bimblebox was not donated, it is still owned and managed by the landholders, who voluntarily entered a conservation agreement with the State Government.