A plan to divert two Queensland rivers to supply water to Galilee Basin coal mines would cause significant environmental damage, the Australian Conservation Foundation has warned.

Galilee Water Pty Ltd – a company chaired by Keith de Lacy, a former Queensland Treasurer and one of the men behind the notorious water-hoarding Cubbie Station – wants to extract up to 700 gigalitres from two rivers and channel it to dams to service mining operations.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s James Trezise said ACF’s submission set out a range of reasons why the Federal Government should reject the Galilee Water proposal.

“We have serious concerns about the damage this plan would do to the ecology of the Cape and Campaspe rivers, as well as to threatened and migratory species downstream,” he said.

“The company wants to extract a massive amount of water – 37.7 per cent of the Cape River’s flow and 39.8 per cent of the Campaspe River’s flow – meaning much less water would get to the lower Burdekin floodplain, a vital breeding area for fish and birds.

“The proposal is to clear 7,000 hectares of land and inundate 5,000 of those hectares, even though the environmental values of the area – believed to be home to species like the Yakka Skink, the Ornamental Snake, the Mt Cooper Striped Lerista and the threatened Black Throated Finch – are not yet well-documented or understood.

“This is nothing short of environmental vandalism.

“Diverting rivers is a dangerous, high risk activity – in 2012 the Morwell River in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley collapsed into the Yallourn coal mine, despite so-called expert modelling predicting the diverted river would be OK in all but a one-in-10,000-year flood.

“And of course the planned river diversions will facilitate massive new coal mines, which will contribute to the world’s climate change problems.

“If all projects planned for the Galilee Basin go ahead, the pollution from burning the coal would be more than Australia’s entire annual greenhouse gas pollution.

“ACF urges the Federal Government to reject the proposal on the basis of the serious environmental damage it would cause,” Mr Trezise said

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