Bligh tells Waratah Coal alternative needed to Shoalwater Bay

Waratah Coal was left exposed politically today as Queensland premier Anna Bligh effectively backed federal environment minister Peter Garrett’s rejection of the export infrastructure plan.

The miner had planned to run a 500-km rail line from its proposed mine at Alpha in the Galilee, to the Shoalwater Bay military training area, but Mr Garrett rejected it.

“This proposal would have clearly unacceptable impacts on the internationally recognised Shoalwater and Corio Bay Ramsar wetlands and the high wilderness value of Shoalwater which is acknowledged in its Commonwealth Heritage listing,” Mr Garrett said.

“The impacts of the rail line and port facility are simply too great to effectively mitigate, and would destroy the ecological integrity of the area. They are impacts that cannot be reduced with offsets or managed through approval conditions.

“Destruction of fragile wilderness areas cannot be reversed. As minister for the environment, I am required by law to protect the environment from actions on Commonwealth land.”

“I have carefully considered the advice from my department on the broader proposal and agree that the plan to run a rail line through Shoalwater and build a coal port in the location proposed is clearly unacceptable.

“I wish to make it abundantly clear that I have rejected this proposal because of the impacts the route of the rail line and the location of the coal port would have on the environment.”

In response, Waratah Coal chief executive Peter Lynch signalled the miner’s intention to fight the decision.

“Waratah considers that the minister for environment has exceeded his authority in dealing with Waratah’s proposal in the manner he has and believes the decision is wrong in law, and not in the national interest,” chief executive Peter Lynch said.

“Waratah does not believe that the proposal has been properly considered or its impacts properly assessed.

“Waratah considers that its proposal should have been afforded the opportunity of scrutiny under a properly directed and formatted environmental impact study and its economic significance properly assessed.

“Waratah intends to proceed with an immediate challenge to the minister’s decision in the Federal Court of Australia.”

However, Ms Bligh indicated the miner should find an alternative.

“I also understand that the Federal Government has indicated to the developer that another site would be considered anew,” Ms Bligh said.

“If there are other possible ways that this resource could be brought to port, then the developer needs to look at that and come back to both the state and federal governments for another examination.”

Fortescue starts second round of environment approvals

Fortesue Metals has released the environmental review of its planned Chichester Ranges mining operations and its connecting east-west rail spur for public comment.

The company released the first part of its environmental review, covering its planned port facilities at Anderson Point in Port Hedland and the main north-south rail line from the mine site to the port.

Fortescue said it has already acted on public submissions on the port and rail proposals.

The latest review will end in early March, and Fortescue chief executive Andrew Forrest said the company will act promptly on relevant proposals.

The two environmental reviews are crucial to the prompt completion of the feasibility study and a ministerial go-ahead for the $1.85bn iron ore export project.

Environment checks for major infrastructure projects

A special compliance officer will monitor all major infrastructure projects in the Northern Territory, such as the Alice-Darwin railway, to ensure they comply with environmental requirements.

The Alice-Darwin railway has received some criticism since construction began over itsenvironmental record.

Complaints have centred around developer ADrail’s use of water and the impact of clearing on the Gouldian Finches habitat.

New environmental compliance officer Scott Whitney has started to work with ADrail to ensure allenvironmental guidelines are adhered to.

World Environment Day good time to remember rail

World Environment Day highlights the need for increased investment in rail, the Australasian Railways Association (ARA) claimed.

ARA president John Kirk said rail is an environmentally friendly form of transport.

Rail transport greenhouse gas emissions have declined 9% since 1990 and rail is over three times more energy efficient than trucks, he said.

He called on governments to reassess their land transport policies and increase investment in rail transport.