Brisbane outcry over coal mine approval amid worst Barrier Reef bleaching


Dozens of Brisbane people are expected to gather outside the Queensland parliament on 4 April to protest against the Labor state government’s granting Indian mining giant Adani a license to build Australia’s largest coal mine and the world's biggest coal port on the Great Barrier Reef coast. The project has already been approved by the ultra-conservative, pro-big-business federal government, although two court cases, from Aboriginal traditional owners and the Australian Conservation Foundation, are still ongoing. The decision comes as the worst mass coral bleaching on record has hit the iconic Reef, one of Australia’s major tourist attractions and a world heritage site listed by the United Nations.


Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s minority government is on shaky ground, needing three votes from non-Labor members of parliament to pass every piece of legislation. A poll has found a majority of Queenslanders wanting Palaszczuk to call a snap election.


Palaszczuk claims there has been extensive government and community scrutiny of the project and she has decided that benefits outweigh challenges. She said stringent controls would continue to protect the environment and the Great Barrier Reef, as well as the interests of landholders and traditional owners. "We are talking about thousands and thousands of jobs - 5,000 jobs from this project during construction and another 4,500 during the peak of its operations - it means jobs for local people as well," she said.


Adani job creation figures have been the subject of debate since last year after revelations in court found the mega-mine would create 1,464 jobs per year, not the 10,000 jobs figure that was commonly associated with the project.


Environmental groups slam the mine approvals as the resources sector celebrates them. One of the groups driving the planned Brisbane protests is, which opposes all fossil fuels.


“We know that the mining and burning of coal is destroying the Reef and we know that we must keep fossil fuels in the ground if we want to avoid dangerous global warming. Yet, the Queensland and federal governments are intent on giving the coal industry everything they need to dig more coal out of the ground and wreck our precious Reef,” they say on their website.


“Stopping the proposed Galilee Coal mines in central Queensland is one of the most important fossil fuel fights on the planet. If the Galilee Basin was a country it would be the seventh largest source of carbon emissions — it’s a veritable ticking carbon bomb. What’s more this monstrous project would require a major expansion of Abbot Point port, which sits on the edge of our precious Great Barrier Reef. The mines would triple our emissions and require construction of the world’s largest coal port at Abbot Point.” Abbot Point is near the town of Bowen, 990 km north of Brisbane.


“As global temperatures hit terrifying levels and the Reef turns a deathly white, the absurdity of Anastacia Paluszczuk’s government approving this monstrous coal project cannot be understated,” said campaigner, Moira Williams.


“Queenslanders are sick and tired of their government putting the Reef and our future second to the mining industry. The Paluszczuk government was elected on a mandate to protect the Reef. Instead, they are giving the coal industry a leg-up to trash it.”


The Australian Conservation Foundation has questioned whether Adani pressured Queensland's mines minister to grant the approvals. ACF chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy recalled Mines Minister Anthony Lynham saying in February that he was reluctant to issue mining licences while there were outstanding legal cases. “Has he been pressured to go against his better judgment by Adani? It's strange." The ACF case is set down for a Federal Court hearing in early May, while the traditional owners are still awaiting a ruling by Federal Court Justice John Reeves, who reserved his decision after a hearing in February. 

The Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners have gone to the Federal Court seeking a judicial review of a decision by the National Native Title Tribunal to issue leases associated with the mine. "This is a disgraceful new low in the exercise of government power at the expense of traditional owners' rights. Minister Lynham and Premier Palaszczuk should hang their heads in shame. History will condemn them," community spokesman, Adrian Burragubba said.


He points out that the mine would include six huge open cut pits and five underground mines. It would be more than 45 kilometres long and would destroy more than 280 square kilometres of their land. There would also be a railway passing through their land to the coast.

Adani says it won't commit to the project until the court challenges by what it calls "politically-motivated activists" are resolved. India's finance minister Arun Jaitley has weighed in on the dispute, saying activist-driven delays to coal projects aren't just an Australian phenomenon.

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Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council“Gutless and morally bankrupt government”   -   "Minister prefers Adani’s misleading and inflated jobs figures to respect for the law and human rights. If built, the coal mine will permanently destroy the W&J’s vast traditional homelands in the Galilee Basin.


Authorisation meeting of the Wangan and Jagalingou People   -   "We have convened this meeting because of our concerns with the way the majority of the Applicant has been conducting business amongst themselves and with Adani Mining. We believe our claim group’s decisions to reject an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani in October 2014, and earlier in December 2012, have been undermined. We say that the Applicant does not have a mandate to go ahead and open new negotiations with Adani. We put our objections on the record and also noted that decisions of the Applicant upon which they relied to do deals with Adani were invalid and unauthorised."


Statement on the Wangan and Jagalingou People's fight by the Indigenous youth climate network  

Burrabugga.jpgA message from Adrian Burragubba, representative of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners.

The Queensland Government just betrayed us.

Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham wrote a letter to us in October, promising he would await the outcome of our Federal Court action against the Carmichael mine before considering issuing Adani with the mining leases. But today the Premier and the Minister double-crossed us.

Adani doesn't have our free, prior and informed consent to build their Carmichael coal mine on our land, and they never will.

The Queensland Government just rode roughshod over our rights and granted the mining leases anyway. They have given Adani the green light to ignore our opposition and to tear the heart out of our country. To destroy our rivers and drain billions of litres of groundwater. To leave a black hole of monumental proportions in our homelands.

We feared the Government would do this -- and they did. And we need your help to fight it. Today's approval changes everything. But we can and will fight on. Can you donate now so we can fight against Adani's mining lease in court?

This is far from over! Our incredible supporters have already helped us take a fight against the mine to the Federal Court. The case is still underway as we speak.

But once again this Government thinks it can trample all over our rights without consequences. Once again this Government pays lip service to our rights, but they never stand up for them when mining and money become involved. it comes to money and mining. This is a lie and it's a betrayal, clear and simple.

Two weeks ago, our claim group met en masse and voted down an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani. It was the third and final time. We said it again, we said it loud and we said it clear: we do not consent to this mine and we never will.

The Minister has trashed our rights and pushed the leases out the door in one of the worst acts of bad faith towards Queensland's Indigenous people in living memory.

This fight will define our people and be a landmark moment for Indigenous rights in Australia. Can you help us fight for our rights and our country in court?

Adani and the Queensland Government think they can walk all over us but they've never seen anything like this. Our lands and our way of life, and the legacy of our ancestors, mean too much to our people for us to roll over.

Our resolve is doubled. Minister Lynham can issue all the bits of paper he likes, hide behind false claims of jobs and benefits, and pander to big coal for an unviable project.

But our people's rights are not expendable. This act of infamy will be challenged all the way to the High Court if necessary, and we will continue to pursue our rights under international law.

The Minister may think this is the end of the matter, but for us it is just another chapter in the long struggle we have to get proper respect and protection for our rights under law, and ensure our sacred homelands are preserved for time immemorial.

We won't stop until our rights are upheld and our land is protected.

Adrian Burragubba, on behalf of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners.    

Leading US investor predicts hidden cost

The approval of Adani’s plans is likely to deliver only short-term economic benefits and may carry a hidden cost if its demise triggers a bailout for miners needing new jobs, a leading US investor says.