"It is no secret that we're trying to raise funds in a David vs. Goliath fight against the massive PR budgets of the mining industry," Greenpeace senior campaigner John Hepburn wrote in his blog Tuesday.
Hepburn's statement came after the environmental group's draft plan to raise $6 million to wage legal battles against coal-mining projects across Australia was reported in The Australian newspaper.
"We are an environmental group trying to stop the ecological devastations of climate change (of which coal is a major contributor) and are seeking to move Australia toward a clean energy future," Hepburn wrote.
Australia is the world's leading exporter of coking coal and relies on coal for 80 percent of its electricity.
"The reckless and massive planned expansion of the coal industry will have a devastating impact on the Great Barrier Reef, on local communities and on the global climate," Hepburn said.
Mitchell Hooke, chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia said Greenpeace's strategy is "a direct attack on Australia's national interest," calling it "economic vandalism."
Noting that the coal industry employs tens of thousands of Australians and generates more than $50 billion per year in export revenue, Hooke said the sector "is vital to Australia's economic well-being and energy security."
He added that the industry complies with "rigorous environmental and social approvals processes."
In Queensland alone, there is $55 billion worth of major coal mining and coal infrastructure projects, either committed or under consideration, says the Queensland Resources Council.
Of particular immediate concern, Greenpeace's Hepburn said, is the Australian government's decision, expected within a month, on whether to approve the world's largest coal port located in the World Heritage Area at Abbot Point in Queensland. The facility is likely to see a six-fold increase in coal port capacity.
Hepburn said the campaign wouldn't put existing jobs at risk and instead aims to slow the rapidly expanding sector so that foreign workers wouldn't have to be hired for the planed mine expansions.
But Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson warned that there would be a global depression if Australia's coal mining were to slow down.
"It would mean mass starvation. It would be a global depression and they ought to wake up to that instead of living in a fantasy land and organizing these sorts of campaigns," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
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