MAC: Mines and Communities

Australia halts approval for massive $10 bn coal project

Published by MAC on 2012-06-12
Source: Economic Times (2012-06-05)

Indian conglomerate accused of failure to disclose risks

Australia's notorious mining cowgirl and a bunch of Indians have received the thumbs down on their plans to open Australia's biggest coal mine - at least for the time being.

See: Ride on, Australia's Rinehart Cowgirl!

The Alpha Coal Project, being developed by Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting and Andhra Pradesh-based conglomerate, GVK, in Queensland's Galilee Basin, would consist of a 30 millon tonne mine and rail link to an expanded port. 

However,  Australia's federal environment minister has halted the project after it was condemned in a report by UNESCO.

According to a statement from Greenpeace: "The UNESCO report was far stronger than we could possibly have hoped for and effectively calls for a moratorium on approvals of new coal ports in the World Heritage Area until a 2 year strategic assessment is completed".

Nonetheless, says Greenpeace: "It is important to note that we don't think [the environment minister] will stop any of these projects - he'll just require good environmental management".

The organisation has now lodged complaints with the Indian stock exchange over GVK’s alleged lack of disclosure of risks attached to the Alpha operations.

Australia halts approval process for GVK's $10 bn coal mine

Economic Times

5 June 2012

SYDNEY: In a setback to the Indian infrastructure conglomerate GVK, the Australian government announced halting the environment clearances granted to GVK's $10b coal mine by the Queensland government last week.

In a disagreement with the Queensland government over the issue, Australia's federal minister for sustainability and environment Tony Burke announced halting the approvals granted to GVK's project.

While the conservative Queensland government that was elected in March is on a move to clear the backlog of mine projects worth over A$50b, the federal government is acting tough on projects that could impact the environment.

GVK's Alpha coal, rail and port project last week became the only Galilee Basin proponent with an approved environmental impact statement (EIS) when the Queensland government granted the approvals.

The project, expected to generate some 4,000 jobs at peak, is being run by Hancock Coal, in which 79% is owned by GVK and the balance 21% by Gina Rinehart, the world's richest woman.

Reacting to Queensland government's environmental approvals granted on 29 May, Unesco urged the Australian government to block the port developments and related infrastructure saying that it would affect the Great Barrier Reef and pose serious concerns about the site's long term conservation.

As a part of a bilateral agreement, the Queensland's state government and the Australian government were to have jointly reviewed the GVK's coal mine project. Federal minister Tony Burke has been raised concerns over the environmental clearances to the Indian infrastructure firm.

On Monday evening, Burke said he was alarmed by the statement put out in the afternoon by the Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seenay that the issues raised by him were taken into account in the state's conditional approval to GVK's project.

"Effectively, the Deputy Premier is refusing to provide a streamlined system of environmental assessment to allow me to make a decision under national environmental law," he said in a statement, which was also placed on his website.

Confirming the development of the Australian government halting the approvals, a GVK spokesperson said the project was to obtain approvals first from the state government and then from the federal government. "It is a procedural issue and the issue is now stuck at the Australian government level," he said, attempting to downplay the impact on the project.

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