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Premier gets her hands dirty with $1 billion coal mine approval

Business

Coal will come back into political focus today as the State Government grants a mining lease to Pembroke Resources’ $1 billion Olive Downs mine in central Queensland.

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The project is the brainchild of Pembroke’s Barry Tudor who has previously said Olive Downs would be the “last mine of its type for a generation”.  It will employ about 500 people in construction, which is already in its preliminary stages, and about 1000 in production.

“There’s very few opportunities like this if any,” Tudor said.

However, Glencore’s $1.5 billion Valeria coal mine was also recently granted co-ordinated project status by the State Government, but is yet to go through environmental approvals.

The Olive Downs approval is in stark contrast to the last election when the Palaszczuk Labor Government was caught in a tangle over the Adani coal mine approval saga. That continued to be an issue up until the Federal election last year when central Queensland swung strongly to the Coalition, which has continued to support coal.

The two projects differ in that Olive Downs is metallurgical coal for steel production, which doesn’t attract the same angst or protest as Adani’s thermal coal which is used for electricity production. However, both produce CO2 when burnt.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says Pembroke can now hire the 500 workers needed to build the project, which is 40km southeast of Moranbah.

“My government is delivering our plan for Queensland’s economic recovery and the resources sector will continue to be an important part of that plan,” she said on Tuesday.

“The resources industry has a long future in Queensland, whether it’s metallurgical coal from the Bowen Basin, bauxite from Weipa or rare earth minerals from the North West Minerals Province.”

The project will produce about 15 million tonnes a year of metallurgical coal, which means it will be about the same size as the first phase of Adani’s Carmichael mine, which is forecast to produce 10mt-15mt a year.

Its environmental approvals run for 79 years and jobs will be primarily for locals from Moranbah and Dysart.

The Olive Downs project will include an open-cut metallurgical coal mine, coal handling and preparation plant, 18km rail spur and on-site rail loop, raw water pipeline connecting to the Eungella network, private access roads, electricity transmission line and wastewater and sewage treatment plants.

This will inject around $5.5 billion in royalties to the Queensland Government.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific spokesperson Martin Zavan said the state government should be backing climate-smart projects that future-proof jobs without killing national icons such as the koala.

“It is unacceptable that multinational mining corporations like Pembroke can simply pay a fee to raze thousands of hectares of land and kill vulnerable koalas and gliders,” he told AAP.

“In a rapidly decarbonising world, this short-sighted decision defies the best advice of scientists and economists.

“It will not only put our climate, agricultural land and water at risk but will also exacerbate the climate crisis that is already devastating billions of iconic Australian animals.”

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