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Green hurdles halt $47b in coal projects, says report

Business

The $1 billion Olive Downs coking coal mine that would provide about 1000 jobs in central Queensland is among a list of $47 billion in coal projects nationwide that have been stalled or shelved.

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The majority have hit an environmental hurdle that a Deloitte Access Economics report said relates to a reluctance by companies to commit to greenfield projects because of climate concerns and because investors and banks are walking away from the sector.

Falling prices for coal are also a factor that is likely to mean any new projects will be replacements for depleted mines.

Olive Downs has been held up by the Federal Government’s Department of Environment, which has delayed approval for about six months over a claimed lack of detail in submitted documents from the Queensland Co-Ordinator General.

That follows months of delays caused by the State Government’s refusal to approve the Adani mine for similar reasons and for which it was attacked by the Federal Government in the lead-up to the last election.

In Adani’s case it was the threat to the black-throated finch and groundwater issues.

In the case of Olive Downs, the department wanted more information on a host of animals including the koala, greater glider, squatter pigeon, the ornamental snake and the Australian painted snipe.

There were also impacts on ground and surface water that it wanted information on, the department said.

The information has since been provided.

It said the mine and its associated projects were also determined likely to have a significant impact on listed migratory species and water resources.

“The Department considered there was insufficient information available in the Queensland Coordinator-General’s evaluation report [May 2019] to make an informed decision on whether or not to approve the projects,’’ it said.

“Once the assessments are complete, the Minister or her delegate will consider approval of the projects under national environmental law. It is anticipated that the proposed decisions of approval will be made in early 2020.’’

Olive Downs will produce coking coal for the steel industry while many of the stalled projects are mines planned to produce thermal coal.

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