Appendix 4

Appendix 4

Waratah Coal's Galilee Coal Project

Overview of project

Introduction

4.1        Waratah Coal's Galilee coal project includes two open cut mining pits and four underground coal mines in the Galilee Basin. The mines are expected to produce over 40 million tonnes per annum over a 30 year period. The mines are to be linked by a 453 km rail line to Abbot Point State Development Area (APSDA). In order for the development to proceed, 16,520ha of vegetation for the mine and 1,731ha for the rail corridor is to be cleared. In addition, it is estimated that 25,598ha will be impacted by subsidence associated with underground mining.[2]

Impact of the project

4.2        The proposed was determined to be a controlled action under the EPBC Act on 20 March 2009 based on the potential significant impacts on World Heritage properties, National Heritage places, listed threatened species and communities, listed migratory species and the Commonwealth marine environment. On 24 October 2013, it was determined that water resources, in relation to coal seam gas development and large coal mining development was also a controlling provision for the project.

4.3        In particular, the key impacts of the project are on:

Assessment of the proposal

4.4        It was determined that the project would be assessed through an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in parallel with the Queensland Government. The Queensland Coordinator-General completed his Assessment Report for the proposal on 9 August 2013, concluding the Environment Impact Assessment process at the state level.

4.5        On 25 June 2013, the project was varied to excise the port component at Abbot Port and coal port facilities within the APSDA, a reduction in length of the railway line from 495km to 453km, and termination of the railway line at the boundary of the APSDA. Given the variation, the assessment of the impacts of the proposed action on matters protected under the EPBC Act were limited to where the rail line intercepts the boundary of the APSDA and its surrounds.

4.6        The EIS was made available for public comment between 26 September 2011 and 19 December 2011 with 1842 submissions received by Waratah Pty Ltd, the vast majority from individuals. The proponent addressed matters raised in public submissions in the finalised EIS, which was submitted to the department on 3 September 2013.

4.7        The proponent undertook avoidance and mitigation strategies for the project including:

4.8        The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment approved the project on 19 December 2013, subject to a number of conditions, including those relating to offsets.

Offset requirements

4.9        The offsets package required under the conditions of approval[3] included requirements:

4.10      The department commented that the proposed offset areas were identified by the proponent as containing the necessary vegetation communities and biodiversity values to acquit the offset requirements of the project. Preference was given to properties located as close as possible to the impact areas, larger properties that allow for the co-location of offset values and the achievement of strategic conservation outcomes, as identified in the Galilee Basin Offset Strategy. The department added:

During the assessment process, the department reviewed the proposed offsets provided in the Biodiversity Offset Proposal against the requirements of the Department's EPBC Act offsets assessment guide and determined that the proposed offsets provide 90 per cent or greater required for each threatened species and community, where residual impacts had been determined in the assessment process.[4]

4.11      In addition, the proponent has committed to:

4.12      The Queensland Coordinator-General imposed a condition requiring that the proponent compensate the State for the loss of biodiversity, conservation and educational values from the Bimblebox Nature Refuge as a result of the proposed action. The proponent has identified a 36,000ha property within the Galilee Basin Offset Strategy to offset for the loss of State identified conservation values associated with the Bimblebox Nature Refuge. The proposed offset property will be considered as part of the package of offsets proposed to meet the EPBC Act requirements.

Issues with the proposed offsets

4.13      As noted in Chapter 6, the committee does not intend to comment on particular projects. However, the committee notes that submitters and witnesses raised a number of issues in relation to the offsets conditions for this project. These included:

...to select offset land many kilometres away would negate totally the proposed value and effectiveness of any offset. The Reserve contains threatened species of both flora and fauna, and suitable land must be found as an offset, in close proximity, in order for threatened flora to be transplanted and to which the fauna may safely move;[8]

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