Burke takes control of Alpha reef mine study
The Federal Government will take over the environmental assessment of Queensland’s Alpha Coal Project after a tug-of-war with the State Government.
Queensland and the Commonwealth have been at loggerheads over environmental approval for the $6 billion Galilee Basin mine.
The state had completed its assessment, but Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said it was incomplete and asked for more information.
Mr Burke today met with Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and the Environment Minister Andrew Powell to try to break the impasse.
Mr Burke says his department will complete the assessment process, and there will be negotiations in coming days to try to avoid a repeat of this stand-off.
He had previously threatened to scrap a bilateral agreement with the state on environmental approvals, but he now says he is willing to consider amendments.
The state and federal governments had been working together on a single environmental approval process for the project, but earlier this week Mr Burke said Queensland had not upheld its end of the deal.
He said the Queensland approval process had been “hopeless” and fell “abysmally short” of what is required under the bilateral agreement.
In a letter to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, Prime Minister Julia Gillard wrote that any “breach of this agreement is unacceptable to the Commonwealth”.
“I am particularly concerned that Queensland’s decision has immediately put at risk community and business confidence in the ability of Queensland to work with the Commonwealth,” she wrote.
“The Commonwealth will, as a result, work directly with Alpha Coal to complete the assessment process and resolve any remaining uncertainties for the project.”
Mr Newman hit back, accusing Mr Burke of politicking.
Mr Newman later told ABC Local Radio that he would be happy for the Commonwealth to take over the approval process if necessary.
“I don’t care particularly how it’s done, he [Tony Burke] can actually approve the project as far as I’m concerned, but approve it he must, subject to conditions,” Mr Newman said.
The Alpha Coal Project’s location in the Galilee Basin means it could have an impact on the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
The proposal includes a 495-kilometre railway line to Abbot Point near Bowen, north of Mackay.
The project would create an estimated 3,500 construction jobs and 1,000 operational positions – and inject about $1 billion into Queensland’s economy each year.
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