Clive’s Central Queensland Coal Project Scuttled

Central Queensland Coal Project

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has definitively dashed Clive Palmer’s dream of digging another dirty great hole in Queensland to extract dirty fuel.

Central Queensland Coal and Fairway Coal, wholly owned subsidiaries of  Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy, wanted to construct an open-cut coal mine around 25 kilometres northwest of Marlborough; extracting up to 10 million tonnes of thermal and coking coal per year. Thermal coal is used for power generation, while coking coal used to produce coke utilised in steelmaking.

A few months ago, Minister Plibersek issued a proposed decision on the project – to not approve it. The project proponent and the public were then invited to provide additional information for the minister to consider. Around 9,000 submissions were lodged in just 10 business days.

In a video posted to her Facebook account yesterday, Minister Plibersek announced her final decision:

“I wanted to let you know that after a thorough assessment of all the information before me, I have decided to stick with my decision and I won’t be approving the Central Queensland Coal Project. I’ve decided that the adverse environmental impacts are simply too great.”

Minister Plibersek said the mine would be less than 10 kilometres from the Great Barrier Reef marine park, and the risk of pollution and irreversible damage to the reef “is very real”. Additionally, the project would have had unacceptable impacts on freshwater in the area, and potentially on fragile seagrass meadows that support dugongs and fish breeding grounds.

There was another important aspect missing from the Minister’s decision, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

The Climate Council says the decision was something to celebrate, and with the precedent set the Government should block other coal and gas projects.

“The fact is there can be no new coal and gas projects if we are going to keep global warming within the safe limits. And there are still 29 more coal proposals to tackle,” said Climate Council CEO Amanda Mackenzie.

Emissions And The EPBC Act

While Minister Plibersek’s decision was based on various potential impacts to the Great Barrier Reef and other factors, emissions weren’t among them.

The Climate Council says the Central Queensland Coal Project would have been responsible for 130 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over its lifetime. Just as a comparison, Australia’s emissions for the year to June 2022 were estimated to be 486.9 Mt CO2-e.

Ms. Mackenzie said it was important to ensure the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act – under which Minister Plibersek’s decision was based – takes into account the climate impacts and emissions of new projects.

While there are significant changes in the wind for the EPBC Act, the Federal Government is currently not proposing to introduce a climate change trigger per se. But scope 1 and 2 emissions will need to be estimated for projects and an approach to managing those emissions outlined.

Scope 1 and 2 emissions are those associated with a direct result of an action and energy consumption associated with it. But in terms of coal mines, the elephant in the room is scope 3 emissions – those generated by consuming a product created; i.e.,  burning coal.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. Geoff Miell says

    Meanwhile, Tanya Plibersek MP’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water extended an EPBC approval to continue operations for Lake Vermont Coal Mine, Dysart, Queensland to 30 Jun 2063, signed-off on Jan 6.

    And it seems BM Alliance (aka BHP & Mitsubishi) are seeking EPBC approval from Minister Plibersek’s department for extending open-cut coal mining operations at the Peak Downs Mine for up to 18 Mt/y for a further 93 years.

    On 16 June 2022, Australia lodged an updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat. The updated NDC commits Australia to a more ambitious emissions reduction target of 43 per cent below 2005 levels, and reaffirms Australia’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

    I wonder how Labor can spin their encouraging and approving more fossil fuel projects?

  2. Good on ya Tanya!

    A responsible government being realistic.

    It would always be nice to end the whole coal mining and fossil fuel game over night but unfortunately this will take some time to end it all, and yes we are running out of time, but change is happening, bit by bit everyday.

    If the Coalition was still in power, they would have just rubber stamped it and said, ‘Go for it Clive”.

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