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Queensland Government approves new greenfield coal mine after state battered by catastrophic climate-induced cyclone and floods

Media Release

8 February 2024

The Queensland Department of Environment and Science has today approved Whitehaven Coal’s Environmental Authority for their proposed Winchester South coal mine, taking this destructive greenfield coal project one step closer to approval. 

The approval is not available online, stakeholders received verbal confirmation from the department that it has occurred yesterday (Wednesday February 7)

Winchester South is Australia’s biggest proposed new greenfield coal mine. Whitehaven Coal plans to mine up to 17 million tonnes of coal each year for 28 years, producing 583 million tonnes of CO2e emissions, more than Australia’s total annual emissions in 2022. Forty percent, around 7 million tonnes a year, of the coal from Winchester South will be thermal coal for electricity. The rest would be low quality PCI coal, which can also be sold into the thermal coal market, and metallurgical coal.   

The project still requires Federal approval from Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek who is assessing the coal mine’s impacts on water and the planned destruction of habitat  for endangered wildlife including koalas and greater gliders. 

Whitehaven Coal has a long track record of breaking the law in NSW, having been fined for stealing 1 billion litres of water during one of the worst droughts at their Maules Creek coal mine, burying toxic tyres, and destroying Aboriginal cultural heritage amongst many other incidents. See the full list here

Imogen Lindenberg, Climate Campaigner at Mackay Conservation Group said:

“Winchester South would leave three giant craters that would drain ground water forever, clear the habitat of endangered koalas and greater gliders, and fuel devastating climate impacts like worse bushfires, floods, droughts, storms and heatwaves already ravaging communities around Queensland and the whole of Australia.  

“The Queensland government’s greenlight for this proposed mega mine in the middle of the climate crisis is reckless in the extreme and flies in the face of the Queensland government’s recently beefed up emissions reduction targets. The Queensland government is undermining its own climate policies by approving massive new polluting coal mines. To reduce emissions we need to urgently phase out fossil fuels, not open new coal mines that will pollute for decades to come.”  

“We now call on Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to refuse this project and not allow koala or glider habitat to be cleared for a climate-wrecking coal mine. Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has approved four new coal mines in the last year. This project is the ultimate test for the Albanese Labor Government on climate. If the Government is serious about climate action, they must stop approving new coal and gas projects, starting with Whitehaven Coal’s Winchester South coal project.”   

“Australia’s national environmental laws do not even consider climate change and the damage to the climate caused by coal and gas mines. The Albanese Labor government’s reforms to national environmental laws must fix this problem and ensure the climate harm of new fossil fuel projects like Winchester South are assessed.”

Further background: 

Around half of the coal from Winchester South will be thermal coal for electricity and the other half would be low quality PCI coal, which can also be sold into the thermal coal market, and metallurgical coal.  

The thermal coal component of the Winchester South mine (7 million tonnes per annum or 40%) will make it the largest proposed new thermal coal mine in Queensland and one of the biggest thermal coal producers in the state. (See page 2-55)

The International Energy Agency has said no new coal mines, including metallurgical coal mines, can go ahead for the world to reach net zero emissions by 2050.  

Page 103 of the IEA report states: 

No new coal mines or extensions of existing ones are needed in the NZE as coal demand declines precipitously. Demand for coking coal falls at a slightly slower rate than for steam coal, but existing sources of production are sufficient to cover demand through to 2050. 


Contact Imogen Lindenberg 0477997392

Pioneer-Burdekin Hydro Electric Scheme Update

MCG has long campaigned for more renewable energy in Queensland. We welcome the phase out of coal fired power by 2035 but there are concerns about the mega dams that will facilitate the plan. 

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Shonky $1 mine deal gets worse

The Department of Natural Resources and Mines has removed significant conditions from the indicative approval for transfer of the mining lease for Blair Athol mine from Rio Tinto to the debt laden TerraCom Resources.

The removal of those conditions means that TerraCom may be able to cut ties with its subsidiary Orion Mining at some time in the future, leaving Orion with the mine rehabilitation responsibility.

The department has also removed a condition that the company must demonstrate that the government would have priority over any other debtors in relation to the cash financial assurance for rehabilitation.

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Write to your bank about Adani

CommBank-Flyer-Background.jpgCoal powered electricity plants have been harming the earth for more than a century. The average global temperature has increased by over one degree in the past hundred years, leading to intensifying climate events. Droughts, flooding and wildfires are all made worse by climate change. Last year the world agreed to take action to limit global temperature increases to less than two degrees and to strive to prevent temperatures rising by more than 1.5°C on average. That won’t happen unless we take serious steps to end fossil fuelled energy production.

Adani's Carmichael mine won't go ahead without finance. You can help by writing to your bank today. Tell them not to use your money to finance climate and reef destruction.

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Renewable Energy for Mackay

Let’s repower Mackay with clean energy!Sun-powered_Queensland_CMYK_(1).jpg

The Great Barrier Reef and our climate are in crisis. Rising carbon pollution from coal, oil and gas are fuelling climate change which is leading to more extreme weather events -- from super storms and floods, to bushfires and extreme heat. August was the hottest month on record, and marks the 11th record setting month in a row. Our Pacific island neighbours are already facing sea level rise and salt-water intrusion which is threatening livelihoods and culture. This year, the largest coral bleaching event in history, caused by global warming decimated the Great Barrier Reef. Almost one quarter of the reef did not recover.

To avoid the worst effects of global warming we must plan for a rapid phase out of coal and gas fired power and its replacement with renewable sources, like solar and wind. Investment in renewable energy will create thousands of long-term sustainable jobs across the region and will help safeguard precious icons like the Great Barrier Reef for future generations.

Mackay can play a leading role in the transition to clean energy. Click here to join our team and help make Mackay 100% clean energy

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Adani Solar Announcement Welcomed

adani-solar-australia.jpgMackay Conservation Group has welcomed Adani’s decision to announce a 100 to 200 megawatt solar farm in Central Queensland.

This is a sensible move that recognises the long term future of electricity production is in renewables.

We also welcome the jobs that construction of a large scale solar power plant will bring without risking jobs in Great Barrier Reef tourism. This is a win for everybody.

Adani is fundamentally an energy company, not a miner, and their expertise is rapidly shifting to become a clean energy producer in India and now in Australia.

Adani has faced a protracted battle to establish Australia’s largest thermal coal mine while the company has been remaking itself in India as the nation’s leading producer of solar electricity.

Coal fired power stations face a very uncertain future as the economics of solar become much more attractive and government policies around the globe aim to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

We look forward to the company making further investments in clean energy in Australia and in India.

Help us stop the mining water grab

Queensland mining companies are about to have one of their Christmas presents taken away and they aren’t happy. The Newman government passed legislation to allow them uncontrolled access to underground water without a licence. That law is due to take effect in December. If the legislation is implemented then miners will have the right to water without a licence. There will be no appeal process. There will be no need for the water to be used sustainably.

The state government has introduced a new law which will prevent mining companies having unrestricted access to underground water. If the law passes it will mean that mining companies will abide by the same rules as farmers and graziers and obtain a licence.

The law is now in the hands of the parliament's Agriculture and Environment Committee. You can help ensure that the law is passed by making a submission to the committee. The website is:

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Blair Athol sale must be blocked

Blair_Athol_aerial.jpgToday’s announcement that TerraCom Limited has an agreement to purchase the defunct Blair Athol mine from Rio Tinto is unlikely to ever eventuate due to significant financial and technical issues.

Mackay Conservation Group has been pressuring Rio Tinto to live up to its corporate responsibility and complete rehabilitation of the mine.

On 4 July, Rio Tinto agreed that it would sell the mine to the small, heavily indebted mining company, TerraCom for $1. Rio Tinto also agreed to pay the Queensland Government $80 million in cash to cover the estimated cost of rehabilitating the mine.

In the past couple of months we have received a leaked copy of the Department of Environment & Heritage Protection’s report on the bond at Blair Athol that shows that there is a shortfall of $20 million in the current bond.

Industry insiders tell us that the real cost of rehabilitating the site is likely to exceed $160 million.

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New Solar Plants Great News for Whitsundays

solarpowerplantserpasmall.jpgThe Whitsunday region will be a big beneficiary of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) announcement that two local projects will receive $19 million in ARENA support.

ARENA has announced that it will help finance the Collinsville Solar Power Station, a large scale solar project that will deliver 42 megawatts of electricity. The project will create an average of 50 direct jobs during its construction.

$9.5 million of the project’s $95.9 million construction cost will be provided by ARENA.

Another project in the region that will be supported by ARENA is the Whitsunday Solar Farm near Proserpine which will generate around 58 megawatts of renewable electricity.

ARENA will provide $9.5 million of the project’s $122.4 construction cost.

These two projects combined will power around 40,000 homes in Queensland.

Overall ARENA has funded six new projects in Queensland with a total of more than $500 million.

300 megawatts of electricity will be produced from the six new projects, powering 120,000 homes.

Mackay Conservation Group coordinator, Peter McCallum, said “this is great news for our region that has been struggling as the fossil fuel industry has moved away from the boom times.”

“Energy production is rapidly changing as more and more resources are put into finding ways to make renewable power more efficient.”

Will you chip in $2 to help us stop Rio Tinto's shonky Blair Athol sale?

Shonky_Rio_Deal.jpgRio Tinto has offered to sell the Blair Athol mine for $1 to a tiny mining company called TerraCom Limited.

Rio Tinto has also agreed to pay TerraCom $80 million in cash if they agree to take over the rehabilitation liability.

Why would Rio Tinto give away a mine and $80 million in cash in exchange for $1? Because Rio Tinto knows that the real cost of cleaning up the mess they have left behind at Blair Athol is more like $200 million to $300 million.

We want to highlight the absurdity of selling a coal mine for $1 by making Rio Tinto a better offer. With your help we can offer Rio Tinto $2,000 or more, to buy the mine and receive the $80 million cash they have offered TerraCom.

Of course our offer would be on the condition that Rio Tinto agrees to pay the full cost of rehabilitation if it exceeds $80 million.

And if Rio Tinto fails to accept our cash offer we will use any donations to help fund our ongoing campaign to ensure that they can’t offload their responsibilities to restore the mine to what it was before mining commenced.

Will you chip in $2 to help us expose Rio Tinto’s corporate tricks?