Federal Court overturns Adani’s Carmichael mine

Adani's activity in the Carmichael mine. (Photo:Supplied)

Adani’s activity in the Carmichael mine. (Photo:Supplied)

Here’s another victory for environmental defenders!

Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland, which could have been one of the largest coal mines in the world and responsible for substantial greenhouse gas emissions, is now without legal authority to commence construction or operate. The Federal Court of Australia overturned approval of the project. Read the court order HERE.

Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) NSW, representing the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG), challenged the $16.5 billion project which the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved last year .The approval stirred unrests among local communities, indigenous people, tourism businesses, and various green and civic groups. 

Sue Higginson, principal solicitor of EDO NSW said the the decision of the court to overturn the Carmichael mine’s federal approval was based on a failure by the Minister to regard conservation advices for two Federally-listed vulnerable species, the Yakka Skink and Ornamental Snake. This kind of error in the decision making process is legally fatal to the Minister’s decision, the solicitor said.

The Minister approved the project without regard to the threats of endangered species which are found only in Queensland, the solicitor continued adding the law requires that the Minister should have considered conservation advices on the impacts of national environmental significance, such as the case of threatened species.

The  Minister also failed to consider global greenhouse emissions from the burning of the coal and Adani’s environmental history although these matters are left unresolved before the Court. Australia’s largest coal mine could be exporting up to 60 million tonnes of coal from across the Great Barrier Reef Coast every year.

Facility built at the Abbot Point Point to provide access to coal exports. (Photo:Supplied)

Facility built at the Abbot Point Point to provide access to coal exports. (Photo:Supplied)

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) estimates the mine will take 297 billion litres from underground aquifers, causing a drop in water table levels on which local farmers rely. When burnt, coal from the Carmichael mine will produce 128.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year, at peak production, or four times New Zealand’s annual climate pollution.

“It will be up to the Minister now to decide whether or not to approve the mine again, taking into account the conservation advices and any other information on the impacts of the project,” Higginson said. MCG is running a campaign calling the Minister to reject the project once and for all.

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Pacific Ocean floor, the new mining ‘frontier’

Environmental defenders are waging another war in the Pacific– this time, against deep sea mining. As land-based resources continue to deplete amid growing demand for natural resources, private companies are relentless in their quest for minerals beyond the frontier.

Nautilus Minerals Inc. (Nautilus), with corporate office in Toronto Canada and project office in Brisbane, Australia, got a green light to drill the ocean floor in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea to extract polymetallic seafloor sulphide deposits.

The company has also plans to extend its tenement holdings in the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters of Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand as well as other areas outside the Western Pacific.

A pioneering project, Nautilus went through rigorous negotiations with the PNG government, including settlement of  commercial dispute for equity participation. The company applied for Mining Lease (ML), along with the submission of development proposal, in 2008 and was granted in 2011. The Environmental Permit was also given in 2009 by the PNG’s Department of Environment and Conservation. The lease term covers 25 years until 2035 to exploit the seabed for the prospect of copper, gold and silver.

Nautilus deploys heavy machinery equipment to extract vast mineral deposits on the sea floor. (Photo: Nautilus)

Under the agreement, the State of PNG takes an initial 15 percent interest in the project with an option to take up to a further 15 percent interest within 12 months of the Agreement. PNG paid Nautilus a non-refundable deposit for its initial 15 percent interest of US$7,000,000.

Support from resource industry

The mining industry admits the challenges in the world market and thus supports this development. In Sydney, 13th Papua New Guinea Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference is being held for three days, Dec.1-3, to discuss prospects of mining.

SOLWARA-img1

The theme, “PNG Resources – Expanding Horizons”, articulates the optimism of the PNG oil and gas sector which has been facing challenging times in the world market.  Commodity prices are falling amid rising costs and falling productivity.

The conference highlights how the mining industry can address the changing conditions and significant progress which is being made in responding to the new environment.

Solwara 1 offers a bright prospect. “Development is well under way on the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project and several of PNG’s world class mineral prospects have made further substantial progress,” its conference website reads.

The conference also offers a wide range of prestigious sponsorship opportunities and the large trade exhibition which presents an exclusive opportunity to showcase the company to a very large audience.

Protest in Sydney

On Tuesday noon this week, human rights and environmental activists staged a PNG mining and pollution divestment protest on George Street in Sydney juxtaposing the conference being held at the Hilton Hotel. They said mining has been destroying communities and the environment since 1972.

Dan Jones, Melanesian Studies advocate said, “From Bougainville to Ok Tedi, to Porgera and Ramu Nickel in Madang, the extractive industry continues to cut corners purely to maximise profits causing massive environmental damage and social upheaval which continues to spark social uprising, ecocide and serious conflicts.”

"The Great Commission" arrives in PNG, an image being used by Nautilus in its deep sea mining gallery.

Nautilus is one of the speakers at the conference and organizers want the message to get across.

Natalie Lowrey, acting coordinator for Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “The Nautilus Environmental Impact Assessment is deeply flawed, neither the Precautionary Principle or Free Prior and Informed Consent has been adhered to despite growing opposition in PNG. This only further disenfranchises communities in PNG who have not yet made an informed decision on whether they want to be the guinea pigs of such a new industry.”

PNG locals are gathered to brief them of what is to  happen in their community. (Photo: Nautilus)

Protesters also decry Bank of South Pacific which provided Nautilus funding for Solwara 1. The bank is a sponsor and presenter at the conference. BSP is  criticised for allowing the project to progress after it stalled.

BSP, who considers itself the ‘greenest’ bank in the Pacific provided a loan of $120 million (2 percent of BSP’s total assets) to PNG for a 15 percent stake. Those finances are due to be released to Nautilus from an escrow account on Dec. 11.

The Deep Sea Mining campaign sent a joint letter with PNG-based NGO Bismarck Ramu Group to BSP asking if they have undertaken a full risk analysis on its loan to the PNG government that is allowing this project to advance. However, the groups had not received an answer.

Jones explained that most Papua New Guineans do  not see any benefit of mining, coal, and gas explorations to the community. They only see exploitation of their land and damage being done to their spiritual connection to land and sea. Jonas said culturally diverse subsistence agricultural communities rely on clean environments and waterways for survival. He added:

“Papua New Guineans want support for their own initiatives, like value adding to existing cocoa and coconut industries. There is an increasing demand for organic health food export markets utilising fair-trade virgin coconut and cocoa in recent years is an industry PNG is failing to tap into.”

“Development to Papua New Guineans is much more than an expedient cash cow benefiting foreign investors and local officials. Real development includes cultural development including environmentally custodial customs, responsibilities and spiritual connections to land and sea.”

Meanwhile, Mining Australia admitted that while deep sea mining generates enormous profits, the risks associated with it cannot be ignored. Potential consequences may include pollution, accidental spillage which may release toxic substance into the surrounding area, and a fear that could damage uncharted area of the sea — just to name a few.

News blog link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

Free market think tank urges privatisation of ABC

The proposed privatisation of  the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) could be an ultimate blow to Australia’s clean energy policies if it pushes through. The county’s fossil fuels think tank highly recommends the public broadcaster to be silenced by transferring its management to the private sector.

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA)  released a report this week saying that the ABC is bias against the fossil fuels industry and  is leaning towards the left with favourable reporting on  renewable energy. IPA commissioned iSentia in March to do an analysis based on ABC’s coverage of energy policy issues, including the coal-mining, coal-seam gas, and the renewable energy industries.

Privileged occasions where Abbott-Murdoch-Rinehart get together. Top photo shows Gina Rinehart whispers to PM Tony Abbott while below, Murdoch is with the mining goddess.

“If bias at the ABC is systemic, only structural reform will solve it. A new board or management won’t change the culture. Privatising the ABC is the only way to ensure taxpayers’ money is not used to fund biased coverage,” IPA said in its website.

But oppositions to the fossil fuels industry are saying the contrary. Privatising the ABC would limit reporting on renewable energy policies, giving way to big-scale investments on fossil fuels. GetUp! said privatising the ABC will thwart Australia’s burgeoning renewable energy industry in favour of fossil fuels.

A speech delivered by Len Cooper, secretary of Communications Workers Union, in Wodonga on 16 June 2014 also said Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a  pre-election pledge. He promised his party, industry think tanks, and supporters to dismantle policies that are not favourable to encourage investments. Cooper added, “the IPA has over 100 policy demands it has wanted and wants the Abbott Government to implement.”

Copper revealed the guests who attended the 70th Anniversary IPA dinner in April 2013 before the federal election. She said high profile guests included mining queen, Gina Rinehart and media mogul, Rupert Murdoch who was one of the keynote speakers. Early on, Abbott assured his guests his government will repeal the carbon tax, abolish the climate change authority, and disband the Clean Energy Fund.

The IPA claims itself as the world’s oldest right wing think tank representing big businesses with close links to the Business Council of Australia. It advocates free market economics, privatisation, deregulation, limited government, and a free market approach to environmental problems.

Cooper accused the IPA of being an instrument in forming the Liberal Party and is also a fund raiser for the party with major donors from the resource industry such as ExxonMobil, Telstra, WMC Resources, BHP Billiton, Phillip Morris, Murray Irrigation Ltd., Clough Engineering, Caltex, Shell, Esso, Electricity and Mining companies, and British American Tobacco among others.

ABC Friends also noted how Abbott praised his fellow keynote speakers, especially Murdoch.

Without specifying what items on the IPA’s list to radically transform Australia he would not implement, Abbott’s broad response was: “a big ‘yes’ to many of the 75 specific policies you urged upon me”. So what would be the result if the IPA’s policy for the ABC was implemented? Public broadcasting – gone. The ABC to be broken up and sold off, and SBS to be fully privatised.

Large-scale protests are already brewing to lambast Abbott’s leadership policies..GetUp! said “we actually had a good laugh, until we realised – this is no joke. “

GetUp! said the IPA’s report purports to have  uncovered “media bias” but the fact remains that “As we all know by now, the right-wing think tank just happens to be supported by the likes of Murdoch and Rinehart.”

Dark, thick smoke from coal-fired power plants is belched into the atmosphere. (Photo: ABC)

The scary truth is right now we are watching the IPA’s radical conservative agenda become a reality before our eyes – from the dismantling of the carbon price to a budget that elevates big business over everyday Australians. Its seemingly impossible wish list of 75 conservative items has been rapidly ticked off as our Prime Minister adopts them with abandon.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne described the Coalition as an ‘Abbott-Murdoch-Rinehart collaboration directed and promoted by the IPA.’

Meanwhile, the Guardian said there are many indicators how to determine whether news reporting is objective or biased. But whether ABC is bias or not, “A KPMG report leaked in 2006 considered the ABC to be highly efficient and underfunded.”

A positive mention of Crikey: “The ABC provides a high volume of outputs and quality relative to the level of funding it receives … the ABC appears to be a broadly efficient organisation.”

Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

Australia’s climate policy in limbo, carbon tax is dead

Australia’s carbon tax has been repealed leaving the nation’s climate policy in a vacuum with no concrete alternative.

Australia’s Coalition Government has begun celebrating the repeal of carbon tax which was voted down in a Senate marathon on Thursday.  It is a landmark victory for Prime Minister Tony Abbott since he assumed office last year. From day one, he wanted to abolish clean energy legislations which the previous Labor Government had enacted.

The Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2] was voted down last week, July 10, after  crossbench senators under the Palmer United Party (PUP) joined the opposition block. But Abbott was relentless over the weekend. He worked with PUP leader Clive Palmer to sort out a last minute amendment. 

PM Tony Abbott claps and celebrate Coalition’s victory to scrap carbon tax. (Photo: Supplied)

The repeal bill was defeated in both houses of the Parliament since Abbott introduced the proposed legislation.  Last week, the bill reached a double dissolution trigger, but Abbott was determined to quash the tax once and for all.

On Monday, the Senate resumed deliberations and in the final vote on Thursday, the senators from the PUP backflipped as expected.  They voted for the repeal, along with Motoring Enthusiast Senator Ricky Muir, Family First Senator Bob Day, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and Democratic Labour Party Senator John Madigan. Labor and the Greens voted against.

The jubilant prime minister reiterated the tax is a big obstacle to businesses and a hand brake to the national economy. “We are honouring our commitments to you and building a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia,” he enthused. He said it would save the average family $550 a year and the first benefits would be seen in coming power bills although oppositions and observers said the savings is unclear and without consensus.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne defends carbon tax. (Photo: AAP)

While Abbott is celebrating, Greens Leader Christine Milne condemned the government and crossbench senators for “the legacy of their political career”. Milne declared the vote  a “failure” that would see Australia a “global pariah” and” backwater” going against the flow while other countries marched towards pricing carbon and stronger action on climate change. Labor senator Lisa Singh said with one vote, Australia had moved backwards and it “will today be a laughing stock to the rest of the world”.

Conservationists, grassroots to fight back

Grassroots declare Thrusday as the black day for the planet. They said Australia is the first country in the world to repeal a carbon tax, with no clear carbon emissions plan being put in place.

Greens and grassroots stormed Twitter to vent their anger over the carbon tax dumping.

GetUp is now galvanising a campaign that would be ”the largest open letter in Australia’s history”  condemning Australian government’s inaction on climate change.  The group has already gathered more than 73,600 signatures as of noon time on Thursday.

Rallies are already being scheduled on important dates when governments around the world meet to tackle climate change, including a United Nations meeting in New York this coming September, G20 summit in Brisbane in November, and Conference of Parties in Paris next year.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) joins conservationists across the nation to express dismay over the dumping of carbon tax. In an email to supporters, the ACF said,

Today our government failed us. The senate just voted to repeal our working price on carbon pollution. You, with Australia’s leading scientists, economists, health experts, firefighters and ambulance workers fought loud and clear to keep our climate safe. But the senate didn’t listen to us. Instead they chose to listen to big polluters and abolish our carbon price.

Now is the time to show Australia that while the government voted against climate action, we won’t give up. In Bono’s words “The power of the people is greater than the people in power”.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific also expressed disappointment on the government for making Australia the first country in the world to abolish a price on carbon. It told supporters that as the rest of the world moves to tackle climate change, “the Australian government is doing everything it can to remain wedded to fossil fuels.” It urged Australians, “to come together and take action to secure a cleaner, healthier safer future.”

 

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

 

Malaysian authorities accused of human rights violations

Re-blogging:

The local police in Gebeng, Malaysia have been accused of suppressing basic human rights following the illegal arrests of civilians who are protesting against the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), an Australian-owned rare earths mining company.

Civilian rally against Lynas.

Over a dozen of protesters were arrested on June 22, including Australian environmental defender Natalie Lowrey. She was released earlier and she is now back in Sydney safe and sound.

However, not all the protesters were freed in good faith. Last week, six were released on three conditions – bail amounting to RM 2,500 (€576) each, a ban from posting on social media, and monthly reporting at the local police station.

The six are members of the Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly), a Malaysian environmental movement protesting against Lynas. They were detained on charges of illegal assembly and rioting following their participation in the protest calling for the company to cease work on the plant and leave Malaysia.

The group opposes the operations of Lynas plant, which the group claims produces tonnes of toxic waste.

A couple joins the rally.

Two protesters were hospitalised after the protest and  a human rights defender sustained serious injuries in the head, resulting in concussion, according to reports. All were charged were violating the country’s penal code.

The lawyer for the human rights defenders rejected the conditions, arguing that the injunction is an unconstitutional infringement of  the right to freedom of expression. The case hearing will resume on September 2.

Front Line Defenders is concerned that the charges and bail conditions are targeting the protesters  in order to obstruct and limit their human rights, specifically their campaign to protect the environment of the local community in Kuantan.

A vigil rally pressing for the release of Australian environmental defender Natalie Lowry.

Front Line Defenders has urged the authorities in Malaysia to immediately drop all charges against the 15 human rights activists.

Link: Asian Correspondent

1.2 million Malaysians send eviction notice to Lynas Corp

Australian-owned Lynas Corp cannot get away from its “socially unlicensed” operation in Kuantan, Malaysia, An eviction notice signed by 1.2 million Malaysians across the nation has been sent urging the company to shut down and leave the country immediately.

The signatories press the Australian company to respect local people’s basic human rights and dignity, and to do environmental justice.  They slammed the company for posing health and environmental hazards. Lynas’ operation involves toxic and radioactive rare earth, they said, and that they will fight to the end not to allow their children to be harmed or their land to be destroyed for profits.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (left) and Natalie Lowrey (right) flash an eviction notice in Sydney. (Photo: Supplied)

Apart from health risks, they claim the operation is illegal, if not anomalous, for not having a proper licence. They said the business took off without a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) put in place and not complying with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommendations. The signatories also pointed out the project lacks long-term plan for the permanent waste disposal of radioactive waste.

Sydney-based environmental activist Natalie Lowrey was released on June 30 after six days in detention. She was arrested along with 16 other Malaysians for joining a peaceful protest. She is back home and held a press conference with Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon at the Lynas headquarter located along Pitt Street.

In a statement, she thanked supporters of her release, including hundreds that joined vigils across the country, the 34 Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGO), and other various groups and individuals.

She also appreciated the support of international colleagues and friends, especially Friends of the Earth International and Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific for their quick response in getting a petition going and networking across member groups across the world.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (right) joins the press conference with environmental activists at the Lynas office in Sydney. (Photo: Supplied)

Lowrey said she has no regrets for her act of solidarity with Malaysian people. She also urged all Australian citizens and residents to take responsibility to hold Australian corporations accountable for the impacts of their developments and operations in other countries. She added:

As an international community we must start considering the impacts of rare earth refining and look at worlds-best-practice to contain and deal with the waste and move towards alternatives including urban mining and the recycling of rare earths, especially that rare earths are used in so many green technologies.

The Save Malaysia Stop Lynas activist group has also urged the Malaysian Government earlier not to extend Lynas licence which is due to expire in September this year. The group lamented and claimed Lynas has failed to disclose to the public the identification of the site for the Permanent Deposit Facility (PDF) for its radioactive Water Leach Purification (WLP) waste as required under the terms of its Temporary Operating License (TOL).

As early as 2012, the issue of radioactive waste storage disposal has never been resolved. It was suggested that wastes have to be shipped back to Australia.

However, even the former Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Norman Moore, asserted at that time that “Australia does not support the importation and storage of other countries’ radioactive waste”. He passed on the responsibility to the Malaysian government to take care of the processing plant that is operating in its territory.

Rhiannon reiterated what Lowry had said that the Australian company has no right to destroy the home of Malaysians or to endanger their health and well-being. She also called for the immediate pullout of the company from Malaysia.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent/The Green Journal

Deutsche bank rebuffs Adani’s funding request

The Deutsche Bank of Germany announced it will not lend money to the Indian mining firm Adani Group to finance the development of Abbot Point Terminal I. The decision came after an AGM held on Thrusday.

We stress that we take the future of the Great Barrier Reef very seriously. We observe that there is no consensus between UNESCO and the Australian government regarding the expansion of Abbot Point. Since our guidance requires such a consensus as a minimum, we would not consider a financing request. – Deutsche Bank Group

Deutsche Bank Group convenes AGM 2014 (Photo: Deutsche Bank Group FB)

Adani is one of the last remaining investors standing for the port terminal, along with another Indian firm, GVK Group.

Other investors have long abandoned their stakes, including mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Lend Lease and Anglo American. Market and financial analysts said the multi-billion dollar investment is unfeasible due to the end of the mining boom, with the downward spiraling of coal market prices worldwide. Galilee Basin in northern Queensland, where coal will be extracted,is also extremely remote and without basic infrastructure.

Tony Brown, tour operator for the Whitsundays, speaks at the bank’s AGM 2014 (Photo: Market Forces)

Australian mining goddess Gina Rinehart, herself, sold most of her coal assets in 2011. GVK bought them.

But despite Indian interests, the project has been stalled for two years. Adani is required to complete all environmental approvals and then raise AU $8 billion of additional debt and equity financing, and hence allow construction to commence on the Carmichael coal, rail and port proposal. Read the scale and magnitude of funding HERE.

There are speculations that the two companies tried to sell their equity holdings. GVK allegedly offered Coal India Ltd, but was rebuffed due to its uncommercial value. Adani is also rumoured to have approached several Chinese firms, including China Railway Corp.

Early this month, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) warned investors it is too risky to invest in the project. Local banks which were appointed to finance the project include National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank, and Westpac Banking Corp- on top of a few other international banks.

Tim Buckley , director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said that India cannot afford the price of imported coal:

India’s perilous economic and financial situation creates further uncertainty for companies relying on its ability and willingness to import coal, with its associated implications for inflation, current account deficits, economic instability and energy security’.

He also said that “imported coal would require double the current price of India’s wholesale electricity, which categorically discredits the nonsense argument that it might alleviate India’s energy poverty.” Buckley has produced detailed reports on Adani and GVK.

Whitsundays tour operator Tony Brown joins the rally in Germany (Photo: Market Forces)

Various environmental and civic groups have written the Deutsche Bank not to lend Adani.  Australian-base civic groups also linked with their European counterparts to “pressure” the bank. Some travel operators in Queensland further travelled to Germany to join the rally.

At the end of the AGM on Thrusday, the bank released the Deutsche Bank’s Environmental and Social Reputational Risk Framework (ES Framework), which stipulates the bank’s  environmental and social due diligence as an integral part of the approval process for doing business.

One of the specific guidelines recently adopted addresses activities in the close proximity to World Heritage Sites. It precludes transactions within or in close proximity to World Heritage Site unless there is a prior consensus between the relevant Government and UNESCO that such operations will not adversely affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the Site. This implies that we would not consider a request to finance an expansion unless we had the assurance of both the government and UNESCO that it would not adversely affect the Value of the Site.

Read: Deutsch Bank official stand and UNESCO’s State of Conservation

Blog Link: The Green Journal/ Asian Correspondent

Indian groups keep stake in Abbot Point, reef dumping

Indian mining groups –  Adani and GVK-Hancock –  have not waivered to drop their stakes in the controversial Abbot Point Port terminals in Northern Queensland.

The rest had already dropped the deal, including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. Anglo American is the latest to announce it is walking away.

Abbot Point in Northern Queensland (Photo: NQBPC)

BHP Billiton has formally withdrawn from the $5 billion worth of project as the preferred developer of Terminal 2  in 2012. It also pulled out of building a rail line linking the port with Bowen Basin mines.

Early on, doubt has been cast over the feasibility of the project.

The recent decision by Anglo American re-affirms the unfeasibility of the project. The firm announced that oversupply of coal in the world market has dampen prices.

As of its December 2013 financial records, “metallurgical coal saw underlying operating profit fall 89% to $46m, while thermal coal profits fell 32% to $541m as a result of lower realised prices.”

Bloomberg’s writer, Elisabeth Berhmann, quoted a Sydney-based commodity analyst from Goldman Sachs Groups Inc as saying, “For these projects to be attractive investments, you need to be quite bullish about thermal coal prices….If you’re a power company, and you’re wanting to secure sources of coal, there’s plenty of coal in the market.”

Mining Australia notes the expansion would see four terminals costing $6.2 billion which would provide an extra annual capacity of 120 million tonnes. this would also support the development of mines in the Bowen, Surat, and Galilee Basins.

Adani and GVK Hancock, however, are all out to develop Terminal 0 and Terminal 3, respectively.

Josh Euler, manager for corporate affairs at GVK Hancock, welcomes the decision to go ahead with the expansion. He said in a  press statement , “This is a significant milestone in developing our Galilee Basin coal projects, which represent the creation of over 20,000 direct and indirect jobs and over $40 billion in taxes and royalties.” .

Double disadvantage

Amid bearish coal market prices, environmental groups have denounced the Government’s decision due to its high risk posing an irreversible damage to the world heritage site. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) approved the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil in the reef marine park

The Australian public has been outraged with the approval. Last year, the United Nations downgraded the world heritage site into the endangered list.

Protesters in mascots against dumping on the reef. (Photo: AAP)

GBRMPA expedited a crisis communication in an attempt to ‘enlighten’ and ‘pacify’ the public.. Its chairman, Russell Reichelt,  has written an article at the academic online paper –The Conversation –  to justify the approval. He said the decision is based on comprehensive study and sound judgment that will not do any lasting harm to the heritage site. Discussion has been open to the public since March 3. Reichelt answers the queries himself although readers– composed of engineers, scientists, researchers, and ordinary citizens — are neither convinced nor impressed with the attempt to “gloss over” the real issue.

Observers said, there is something fishy at the sudden turn around of decision considering the warnings over sediments dumping.

Greenpeace  also found a document that questions the integrity of the decision. It shows that GBRMPA feared the dumping would annihilate the barrier reef. However, the Environment Department ignored the warnings and pressured the marine park authority.

Greenpeace campaign poster against Adani group

Indian firms- the culprit

Furious tour operators and Greenpeace are pointing fingers at the Indian mining tycoons as the culprit of an impending catastrophic disaster awaiting the vast expanse of corals.

Association of Marine Park Tour Operators President Colin McKenzie, the peak industry lobby group covering tourism in the World Heritage-listed reef region, accused the marine park authority of pandering to politicians and for allowing Adani group to undertake a risky business.

“The biggest culprit is Adani, an Indian corporation that wants to build Australia’s biggest coal mine in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland, and needs the dredging to allow huge coal ships to access their proposed new coal terminal at Abbot Point to send their coal overseas,” Greenpeace said.

Related story HERE

Traditional owners reject river protection law in Cape York

Time has changed in Cape York, Queensland. Traditional land owners have taken a step to support industrialisation over conservation of river systems.

This week, the Federal Court announced it will rule some of the Wild Rivers laws invalid.

Wenlock River in Cape York is one of the river systems protected under Wild Rivers laws.

Cape York traditional owners have pursued their case against Wild Rivers environmental laws to the Federal Court. The laws to protect river systems were enforced during the Labor government in 2009. There were oppositions in the past, but with the new Liberal government, they are more resolved than ever before.

Martha Koowarta, the widow of land rights campaigner John Koowarta, is leading the case to overturn the declaration of three rivers: the Archer, Lockhart and Stewart Rivers – which traditional owners argue were improperly made.

Repealing the Wild Rivers declarations was one of the promises made by the National Liberal Party (LNP) which intended to replace the conservation laws with Cape York Regional Plan (CYRP).

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC), a member of the CYRP Committee met in Cairns on September 18 after Prime Minister Tony Abbott was sworn into office to discuss the draft of the CYRP.

AMEC Regional Manager, Bernie Hogan announced in a statement, “This is another step towards achieving coexistence for industry, local communities and Government.”

He said the decision of the Campbell Newman Government to scrap the four Wild Rivers declarations as part of the CYRP recognises the opportunities of the area for appropriate mining and mineral exploration activities, as well as agriculture and tourism.

He added the revocation gives investors confidence in the region to do business and up for economic development that will secure the future of all Queenslanders.

“We look forward to seeing this sensible approach to development rolled out in other parts of the state as well, particularly where Wild Rivers declarations have stifled exploration in the Northwest of the state” Hogan conluded.

A propaganda against conservation in Queenland. (Photo: Supplied)

Deputy Premier and the Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney also met the CYDP Committee which brought together the Cape York Mayors, key industry and community stakeholders and other State Ministers the day after Abbott was sworn.

Seeney said the Newman Government is “setting a course to open the region to economic diversity and opportunities, while balancing the protection of the Cape’s unique environment.”

However, he made it a point that Newman wants to identify infrastructure opportunities that will support economic growth in the region and not introduce additional unnecessary regulation.

The Wilderness Society, meanwhile, is re-affirming its support for the conservation of Wild Rivers systems in Cape York.

Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders said the Wild Rivers laws protect the rivers from large-scale development threats, such as in-stream mining, damming, and intensive irrigation It also guarantees indigenous people traditional hunting, fishing, land management and conservation, through protection of native title rights and support for rangers.

While the Society acknowledged and expressed its enormous respect for Koowarta and her family and respect their long struggle for sovereignty over many years, the Society also strongly supports the protection of Cape York’s wild rivers and call for the maintenance of Wild Rivers protection.

Schneiders said the matters being considered by the Federal Court include the consultation process that preceded the making of three Wild River declarations by the Queensland Government in 2009.

“In respect to the consultation process, we note that the Cape York Balkanu Development Corporation was contracted by the Queensland Government….We have always urged compliance with the Native Title Act and supported effective engagement and negotiation processes between government and Traditional Owners, ” he said.

Map of the Archer, Lockhart and Stewart in Cape York. (Image:National Water Commission)

Schneiders reiterates that Wild Rivers declarations represent an effective and flexible approach to conservation which protects the health of the rivers for future generations and allow sustainable development, as well as cultural and recreational use.

The Wild Rivers laws keep mining and other destructive activities away from the most important parts of river catchments – precisely the kind of destructive developments that are now proposed, Schneiders said.

Schneiders  concludes that Wild Rivers declarations represent an effective and flexible approach to conservation which protects the health of the rivers for future generations and allow sustainable development, as well as cultural and recreational use.

Blog Link: The Green Journal/Asian Correspondent

Mining giants snub Cape York’s world heritage value

As the Federal Government released the report qualifying Cape York for UN World Heritage listing, the Queensland state government launched its political rhetoric to encourage local indigenous communities to support mining and to oppose the planned world heritage nomination. Cape York is a peninsula located at the northern tip of Queensland.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney promised indigenous people a stake in the estimated $25 billion worth of bauxite deposits near Watson River in Aurukun, north of Cairns. He also announced that five mining companies have been shortlisted to undertake the project. Queensland is optimistic mining would transform “welfare-dependent communities” into a “booming town.” Indigenous owners will have equity and the venture will create jobs, Seeney said.

The five mining giants are Rio Tinto, Cape Alumina, Glencore International (GLEN), and Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd (CHALCO). Seeney also announced the Australian Indigenous Resources (AIR), a new venture company to take part of the project.

The Australian media speculate that AIR, represented by indigenous leader Gerhardt Pearson and aluminium smelter entrepreneur John Benson, started negotiating on the stake to develop the mine. AIR demands that traditional owners would hold equity, not just royalties. It is also reported that AIR offered the Wik people 40 percent equity and another 10 percent proposed for Cape York organsations.

The processes of bauxite illustrated. (Photo: Queensland Bauxite)

Seeney said Queensland welcomes the prospect of providing an opportunity for local indigenous people to own stake “in the operation of whatever mine is able to be developed there.” Aurukun Mayor Derek Walpo also supports the project hoping Aurukun would be the first community on Cape York to be “liberated from welfare.”

Environment Minister Tony Burke supports Cape York’s enlistment, but Seeney dismissed the federal government’s plan.

In time of the Queensland announcement, however, the Wilderness Society urge the Julia Gillard Government to nominate Cape York for world heritage listing by July with traditional owners’ consent.

The commonwealth government commissioned top scientists to assess the natural values of Cape York against World Heritage criteria. They released the report recently and found that the peninsula contains universal values of international significance and that these values are widespread all over the place.

The values are divided into seven key attributes, including tropical savanna, rainforest, bauxite ecosystems, freshwater biodiversity and dune systems– some of these are the best examples of ecosystems on the planet.

The bad news: mining and land clearing are identified as threats to its enduring values.

Wilderness Society Northern Australia Campaigner Gavan McFadzean said, “This report sends a clear message to the Queensland government not to approve and fast track destructive mining developments over areas now known to be of international conservation significance.”

Earlier, Jacaranda Resources owned by Gina Rinehart applied for a licence to mine the rock art area near the Laura Basin. Rinehart, however, backed down following pressure from conservation groups.

The Quinkan rock art galleries include works of more than 30,000 years old and are some of the most significant on earth. Embedded in the spectacular Laura escarpments, the Wilderness Society said they should be one of the highlights of a future Cape York World Heritage Area.

The Quinkan rock art is listed by UNESCO as one of the top-10 rock art sites in the world. It predates the well-known sites of Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain by up to 15,000 years. The sites are listed on the Queensland Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Database and were listed on the National Estate Register (the forerunner to the National Heritage list), which described the Quinkan rock art as constituting “some of the largest bodies of prehistoric art in the world. The paintings are generally large and well preserved, and engravings of great antiquity occur. The Quinkan art is outstanding both in variety, quantity and quality.” They have never been transferred to the National Heritage list, even though they have long been recognised as having World Heritage values.

The Laura Basin is one of Queensland’s big coal deposits and there is interest in mining for other minerals in the region.

If the enlistment pushes through, Cape York will join the ranks of Australia’s UN World Heritage Sites which include: Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, Willandra Lakes Region, Lord Howe Island Group, Tasmanian Wilderness, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia1, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park2, Wet Tropics of Queensland, Shark Bay, Western Australia, Fraser Island, Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh / Naracoorte), Heard and McDonald Islands, Macquarie Island, Greater Blue Mountains Area, Purnululu National Park, Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Sydney Opera House, Australian Convict Sites, Ningaloo Coast

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent