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Albanese Government Criticized for “Irresponsible” Mine Approval

Environmental groups have accused the Albanese government of recklessness and hypocrisy after it approved a major coal mine expansion in central Queensland.

Groups including the Climate Council and Australian Conservation Foundation are calling for Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to stop approving fossil fuel projects following the government’s green light this week for Sojitz’s Gregory Crinum Mine.

Ms. Plibersek defended the decision, saying it accorded with national environment law and under the government’s safeguard mechanism the project’s carbon pollution conformed with Australia’s transition to net zero.

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It is the Albanese government’s third approval relating to coal projects this year after it cleared the new Isaac River coal mine and the Ensham mine extension.

The open cut extension is approved until 2073, operating for 20 years followed by periods for decommissioning and site remediation.

When built the extension is expected to produce 1.5 million tonnes of metallurgical coal a year.

The decision was made under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Environmental conditions for the approval relate to the mine’s effect on local water quality and threatened species.

The Climate Council said it was “stunning hypocrisy” that the Albanese government would approve another fossil fuel project only a week after Climate Minister Chris Bowen touted Australia’s climate credentials during a tour of the Pacific.

“This latest coal mine approval shows our environment laws are absolutely broken,” Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said in a statement.

“Climate change is the biggest risk to the environment and to all of us.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) branded the approval reckless and inappropriate.

“Following the hottest July on record, as we’ve watched climate change wreaking havoc in Canada, Hawaii, Greece and Italy—and with Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology warning of a dangerous spring and summer ahead of us—it beggars belief that the government would approve a 50-year coal mine extension,” ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said.

Ms. O’Shanassy called on Ms. Plibersek to stop approving new fossil fuel projects immediately.

The Climate Council and ACF also called for urgent reform of national environmental law, arguing the relevant act did not take into account the effect of new projects on climate change.

The Greens said carbon emissions continued to rise under Labor and the government was making global heating worse by opening new coal mines.

Federal Greens leader Adam Bandt said “if we’re going to stop the world going over the climate cliff, we can’t open up a single new coal project.”

Ms. Plibersek said the approval was made “in accordance with the facts and the national environment law.”

Ms. Plibersek said that under the safeguard mechanism, the climate change minister ensured the project’s carbon pollution conformed with Australia’s transition to net zero.

“I am the first environment minister in history to stop a coal mine, and I’ve cancelled two others,” Ms. Plibersek said in a statement.

“We’re committed to supporting a global transition to renewables—it’s cheaper and cleaner.

“That’s why in our first year we doubled the rate of renewable energy approvals.”

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