Mining giant Glencore has defended plans to dig a $ 1.5 billion coal mine in Queensland after telling the federal government more than a dozen endangered species could be found at the site.
Environmentalists said the Valeria mine would destroy habitat for endangered species and threaten farmland, and put a question mark on the company’s climate goals.
But Glencore said it has yet to decide whether it will commit financially to the project, which should be part of its commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
That goal, the company said, also includes burning the coal it sells. In 2019, the company said it would not increase coal production after pressure from investors.
Company documents say the mine would produce between 14 and 16 million tonnes of coal per year from six open pits in the Bowen Basin with an expected life of 35 years.
According to documents sent to the federal government this month, four plants and nine animals are considered endangered but could be present at the mine site.
There are also three threatened ecological communities that would be affected, with some of these areas needing to be cleared.
Surveys conducted between 2019 and 2021 identified hundreds of species, including 334 plants, 132 birds, 34 mammals, 37 reptiles, 16 fish, 10 frogs and 10 introduced species.
Koalas, large gliders and squatting pigeons which are all considered vulnerable to extinction have been recorded at the site.
Koalas and larger gliders have also been spotted in areas the company would use to build a 67 km rail line.
The company said the project covers 29,501 hectares of which around 10,364 hectares are expected to be cleared for the mine, labor camp and access road.
The company sent five documents to the federal government – covering the mine and other infrastructure, including roads and railroads – which will now be reviewed by the Minister of the Environment under the Environmental Protection Act. environment and biodiversity conservation.
Queensland Conservation Council Director Dave Copeman said: âWe can develop other projects that would create more sustainable jobs and economic opportunities for the Queensland region without wreaking havoc on the planet.
He said the production of coal for power generation “must cease by 2030 if we are to stay below 1.5 degrees of global warming” and that methane emissions from the proposed surface mines would be ” a climatic nightmare “.
Ellie Smith, of the Lock the Gate Queensland campaign group, said there was no justification for future approval of the project.
She said, “The Valeria Coal Project poses an unacceptable risk to farmland and to Theresa Creek, a known habitat for many endangered species and a waterway on which communities in the area depend for agriculture.”
She said the mine plan made the company’s climate goals “look like nothing more than eco-bleached propaganda.”
In a statement, Glencore could not say when a final investment decision might be made.
But the company said it was conducting studies of Valeria’s coal resources as the project progressed through the state and federal assessment process.
Glencore is committed to reducing its emissions by 15% by 2026, 50% by 2035 and to be a âtotal zero emissions net companyâ by 2050.
The statement said: âThe development of any coal project, including Valeria, will take into account Glencore’s climate change strategy and stated emission reduction targets. “
The Queensland government granted the mine special status last year, streamlining the approval process.