The environmental authority (EA) application for Whitehaven Winchester South coal mine has been approved by the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment, Science and Innovation. 

The project was assessed through an environmental impact statement managed by the Coordinator-General, who issued an evaluation report in November 2023, which recommended the project proceed subject to the conditions and recommendations in the report.

This EA application was publicly notified and five submissions were received by the department – all of which were considered in the assessment process.

The department has said that it will issue a notice of the decision, including reasons, to Whitehaven and the five submitters by 14 February 2024.

Whitehaven and the submitters now have the opportunity to object to the department’s decision and request that the project be referred to the Land Court.

The objection period is 20 business days from receipt of the notice of decision.

Queensland environmental groups have not welcomed the approval, with the Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) saying that it is a terrible decision that will impact Queenslanders still clearing up from storms, fires and floods made worse by climate change.

The QCC also said that as the largest proposed greenfield coal mine in Australia, Winchester South has the potential to release 583 million tonnes of CO₂e emissions, posing a threat to Australia’s climate, nature and the health of its communities.

QCC Director, Dave Copeman, said that the Queensland Government has put Queenslanders at further risk by approving this dangerous mine.

“Despite the continuous environmental disasters we have witnessed in the past months across Queensland, the Queensland Government’s decision to greenlight this project shows that their approvals process must change,” Mr Copeman said.  

“Instead of protecting Queenslanders from the worst impacts of climate change, they are adding fuel to the fire for short-term gains.

“The climate science is clear, we must end the use of coal urgently if we are to meet our climate targets and keep Queenslanders safe from the worsening impact of climate change. We are dangerously close to likely tipping points in our global climate systems.”

“As an open cut mine, once they start extracting coal, it will be too late to reduce the methane that will be released into the atmosphere continuously for generations, turbocharging climate change.”

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