This is huge. For the first time ever a federal Environment Minister has rejected a coal mine.
Following the urging of thousands of people (including hundreds in the ACF community), Minister Tanya Plibersek today rejected the Clive Palmer-owned Central Queensland Coal Project because it risks environmental damage to the Great Barrier Reef.
Palmer’s mine would have been a climate and nature disaster.
The billionaire wanted to build his mine just 10km from the Great Barrier Reef which would have damaged local habitat including nesting beaches for turtles and a dugong sanctuary. It would have also extracted up to 18 million tonnes of coal per year for burning here and overseas, further fuelling floods, drought and the marine heatwaves that bleach coral reefs.
And while the Minister made the final call to reject it, people speaking out led us to this moment.
Minister Plibersek is currently reconsidering other new coal and gas proposals for their environmental impacts, which is a critical opportunity to stop Australia's climate pollution ballooning.
From the start, strong community opposition has thwarted the mine proposal at every step.
Here’s how people power stopped Palmer’s mine:
In April 2021, the Queensland Government was due to make a decision either approving or blocking Palmer’s mine.
So the Australian Marine Conservation Society and Lock the Gate helped organise rallies in Yeppoon, Mackay and Brisbane to demonstrate Queenslanders’ opposition to the project.
This helped encourage the state government to reject the mine on environmental grounds. However, the door was left open for the federal government to overrule them as the project concerned a place of national significance, the Great Barrier Reef.
This meant the decision fell to the then federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
People in the ACF Community quickly mobilised and sent the Minister 3675 emails urging her to protect the reef and block the mine.
Coral Rowston, then Coordinator at Capricorn Conservation Council, organised a protest in Rockhampton near where the mine would be built. COVID restrictions limited our turnout, but I got to speak at the protest and we got our opposition to the mine into local and state media.
In the Federal Court, eight teenagers argued that the Environment Minister had a duty of care to protect younger people against future harm from climate change.
Across the country, people were making clear to the Environment Minister that Palmer’s mine was unwanted.
It could explain Minister Ley’s motivations for flying to Europe and lobbying to stop UNESCO listing the Great Barrier Reef as ‘in danger’. The new scientific assessment that climate change put the reef ‘in danger’ made Palmer’s mine even less justifiable.
And while the Minister was successful in delaying UNESCO’s listing, she was unable to announce a decision about the mine in this political climate. People had come together, spoken out and made Palmer's proposal unpopular.
It meant the decision fell to new Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, who in August 2022 indicated that she would reject the mine because of ‘unacceptable risks’ it posed to the reef.
Before formalising her decision, the Minister asked for public comment and was inundated with thousands of messages (including 210 comments from people in the ACF community) urging her to rubber stamp her rejection. It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen in one moment. But it has happened.
People from all walks of life united and made enough noise to convince not one but three governments to not approve Palmer’s mine.
Now we have an official rejection. Palmer’s new coal mine will not go ahead thanks to people power.
This is an important victory for our reef, our climate and people speaking out for a healthy, thriving world.
As the world moves away from fossil fuels and our trade partners look to Australia for renewable energy, the rejection of this polluting Central Queensland mine highlights the need to plan for our future beyond coal. This is especially important in regions like Central Queensland that have the skills and infrastructure the world needs to divest from coal, and everything to gain from an energy transition.
We have so much more work to do, but together we can make our decision-makers listen to us, not polluters or billionaires.
In the coming weeks, we must push the Albanese Government to deliver a stronger Safeguard Mechanism that forces Australia’s biggest polluters to actually slash their emissions this decade. I hope you can be part of the push.