Tanya Plibersek and the Four New Coal Mines

So much coal news… and all of it bad!

Exactly as we predicted here at Coal Mine Tracker, last week’s ‘rejection’ of the long-stalled China Stone and Range coal mines was laying the groundwork for the approval of new coal mines with more momentum and more powerful proponents.

Thursday 11 May 2023, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek quietly gave a nod to not one, not two, not three, but FOUR new coal mines. And the lucky winners are:

  • Mount Pleasant Mine (NSW): Backed by an Indonesian noodle manufacturing billionaire, opposed by Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull, and able to produce enough coal to run an average power station for 126 years, Mount Pleasant could also wipe out a just-discovered species of lizard.
  • Narrabri Underground Mine (NSW): This mine is particularly noxious due to the high volumes of methane in its coal deposits—it stands to emit a whopping 18 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent before a single piece of its coal is burned. The mine is being proposed by Whitehaven, the company that stole a billion litres of water during the drought, and also stole coal it wasn’t supposed to mine. Whitehaven is also responsible for a “litany of environmental licence breaches”.
  • Ensham Mine (QLD): Japanese company Idemitsu is looking to extend this mine for an extra nine years. Doing so would result in 106 million tonnes of emissions and place at risk important species like greater gliders, koalas and the southern snapping turtle.
  • Isaac River (QLD): A cheeky little coking coal mine, Isaac River is looking to produce just 3 million tonnes of coal in its initial stage. But from little things big things grow, and the mine’s owners–Bowen Coking Coal–have managed to open/reopen three coal mines in the last year!

Four new coal projects!

But wait, it gets worse! The decisions on Mount Pleasant, Narrabri and Ensham were not a final federal approval, but rather a rejection of a request to reconsider the climate impacts of these projects. The Minister has set a precedent for the other 11 projects on which she has to make similar decisions. The Environment Council of Central Queensland and Environmental Justice Australia are now looking to take these decisions to the Federal Court.

Note that the earlier announcement of Minister Plibersek’s rejection of mines came on the morning of a fairly slow news day, but yesterday’s pro-coal decisions snuck out at 5.00pm on the day of the Budget Reply.

In the media and politics business, they call that “taking out the trash”. Stay tuned to Coal Mine Tracker–we keep an eye on the bins so you don’t have to.