Australian coal projects mega polluters?

Sept. 20, 2012 at 12:51 PM
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BRISBANE, Australia, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Proposed coal mining expansion in the Galilee Basin in the Australian state of Queensland could create more carbon pollution than the entire United Kingdom or Canada, says a new Greenpeace report.

Greenpeace says that five of the nine mega mines planned for the Galilee Basin would be bigger than any mine operating in Australia.

Last month the Alpha coal mine -- a joint venture between Indian conglomerate GVK and Hancock Coal -- was the first Galilee project to be granted state and federal government approval. The other eight mines have not yet received final approvals.

"If the Galilee Basin were a country, the carbon dioxide produced from using this coal would make it the seventh dirtiest fossil fuel burner on the planet," after China, the U.S., India, Russia, Japan, and Germany," says the Greenpeace report released Wednesday.

At maximum production, the nine thermal coal mines' carbon dioxide output could reach 700 tons annually, it says.

The Queensland Resources Council denounced what it called "the latest comic book from Greenpeace," saying the report has "zero credibility."

The Greenpeace report predicts that Queensland would be exporting 1.056 billion tons of coal by 2020.

But the council cites figures from a July report from Australia's Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics, or BREE, showing a high-range outlook for Queensland coal exports for Queensland at 327 million tons by 2020.

"Who is the public to believe -- the independent experts at BREE or the people from the scary monsters unit at Greenpeace, an organization committed to shutting down the Australian coal industry?" QRC Chief Executive Officer Michael Roche said in a statement.

Because the proposed projects will require new coal ports, millions of tons of dredging and thousands more coal ships making their way through Australia's Great Barrier Reef each year, the mines will put the nearby reef "under very serious threat" as it becomes "the world's great coal superhighway," says the report entitled "Cooking the Climate, Wrecking the Reef: The global impacts of coal exports from Australia's Galilee Basin."

The mining will also damage the reef through coral bleaching from increased temperatures, says the report.

"At a time when the science could not be clearer on the need to reduce global carbon emissions, and when governments worldwide are shifting to a low-carbon economy, exploiting the Galilee Basin is a reckless proposition," states the report. "It is imperative that the Galilee Basin coal reserves remain in the ground."

Australia aims to cut carbon emissions 5 percent on 2000 levels by 2020. In July, it introduced carbon pricing.

Earlier this month, the government scrapped plans to pay five of the country's dirtiest coal-fired powered generators to close down.

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