The Galilee Basin is the name of an underground geological formation containing vast thermal coal deposits in Central West Queensland. It lies to the west of the Bowen Basin where Queensland’s existing large coal mines are located (see Geoscience Australia’s map of Australian coal basins). The ‘China First’ mine (also known as ‘Galilee Coal Coal Project’) threatening Bimblebox Nature Refuge is one of a number of ‘mega’ mines currently proposed for the Galilee Basin.
The mines proposed so far include:
- Waratah Coal’s ‘China First’ (also known as ‘Galilee Coal’), ‘Alpha North’ and ‘Carmichael East’ mines;
- GVK and Hancock’s ‘Alpha’, ‘Kevin’s Corner’ and ‘Alpha West’ mines;
- AMCI and Bandanna’s ‘South Galilee’ mine;
- Adani’s ‘Carmichael’ mine;
- MacMines ‘China Stone’ mine;
- Vale’s ‘Degulla’ mine.
More information on the proposed Galilee Basin mines mines can be found here.
Approval status as of July 2015
In their news article “Can you name the proposed Galilee Basin mega-mines with all of their approvals?“, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO Qld) concludes that none of the proposed mines have all of their state approvals. Only the Alpha mine has its Environmental Authority and none have their Mining Lease.
If all these mines go ahead, over 300 million tonnes of coal would be extracted and exported from the Galilee Basin every year. The developments would result in numerous negative impacts in the vicinity of the mines, along the proposed new railway line, at the expanded port at Abbot Point, and on the global climate.
Federal approval has been granted for China First, Alpha, Kevin’s Corner and Carmichael mines.
Impacts and objections
Lock the Gate commissioned an independent report into the mines’ likely cumulative impact on groundwater in the local region. The Draining the Lifeblood investigation found that the projects would put up to 400 local bores at risk, as well as potentially impact on the Great Artesian Basin. The repercussions of the Galilee Basin mines on the global climate and on the Great Barrier Reef is dicussed in the Greenpeace report Cooking the Climate, Wrecking the Reef.
A number of landholders, environment groups and concerned citizens formally objected to the proposed Alpha mine – the first Galilee Basin mine to receive approval from both State and Federal Governments. The case is summarised here. The Queensland Land Court decided on 8th April 2014 that the project should not be approved, but that if it was, that strict conditions on groundwater should be applied. It was an unusual ruling for being made ‘in the alternative’, and is currently under judicial review by one of the original objectors, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office of Queensland.
Development not certain
There is now also significant uncertainty about whether the Galilee Basin mines will go ahead on economic grounds. The downturn in global coal prices, and the financial risk associated with investing in fossil fuels have cast doubts over the proposed developments. There are a number of excellent articles and reports that provide more information on this, for instance see:
- Stranded Down Under? Environment-related Factors Changing China’s Demand for Coal and What this Means for Australian Coal Assets, By Ben Caldecott, James Tilbury and Yuge Ma from the University of Oxford, 16th December 2013 – a report on changing market conditions and the implications for Australia’s coal resources.
- ‘Beginning of the end for coal? Citi sees structural decline’, by Giles Parkinson, 15th May 2014 – an article reporting on a new series of reports from global investment bank Citigroup which highlights the dramatic changes sweeping the world’s largest energy markets, and which will have a significant impact on the future of the coal industry in Australia.
The Degulla mine is at the exploration stage and has been for sale since June 2013.
A great website for up-to-date information on the Galilee Basin