Report: Coal tour of Central Queensland

I was so chuffed that Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland invited me to speak at their Climate Leaders event in Yeppoon. The 60 attendees willing to step up for a safer future in challenging circumstances were an absolute inspiration.

Our precious ecosystems called 'head west young man', despite my more advanced age. A couple hundred kilometers later we were in the town of Dingo on Gangulu Country, where coal mining threatens to subsume this proud agricultural region.

Visiting farmer and old school conservationist Trevor Naughton was an absolute hoot. His property features Wallaby Lane, a reserve protecting the endangered Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby and linking Walton state forest with Taunton National Park. It's also crucial to the proposed Walton coal mine and adjoining proposal for Gemini Coal Project, both owned by Magnetic South. They want to obliterate a precious link between Blackdown Tableland National Park and Taunton National Park featuring endangered species like Koalas and Greater Gliders. We documented over 60 species of birds on this trip alone.

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The further we traveled into the Bowen Basin, the more existing and proposed coal projects we encountered. It was hard not to equate the destruction we witnessed to post-apocalyptic scenes from Hollywood blockbusters. 7000 hectares of Koala habitat is somehow irrelevant to Whitehaven. Their Blackwater South project is the biggest proposed coal mine in Australia by volume, planned to unleash havoc for 90 years.

Whitehaven also owns Winchester South, a project that would generate at least 583 million tonnes of climate pollution, more than the entire annual emissions of Australia. Our friends at the Mackay Conservation Group and Australian Conservation Foundation are taking the project to the Land Court for its impacts on endangered wildlife habitat, human rights, our water and our climate.

If federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek approves Vulcan South coal mine, Vitrinite will be licensed to clear 770 hectares of koala habitat, 39 hectares of greater glider habitat, 36 hectares of vulnerable glossy black cockatoo habitat, and 1,024 hectares of vulnerable squatter pigeon habitat.

I loved staying at mining camps and engaging workers but the last mine I visited crushed me. Glencore’s Hail Creek open cut coal mine on Widi Country is a monstrosity, the gassiest on Earth. New satellite data reveals the climate-killing methane it spews into our atmosphere could be underestimated by a massive 1000%.

This video shows only a tiny percentage of the mine! The contrast between Glencore's hellscape and the beautiful country they want to expand into is stark. More endangered Koalas and Greater Gliders are at risk. We met with farmers and Widi Traditional Owners determined to protect their Country from this multinational conglomerate.

I hope you can join me on the wider journey ahead as a QCC volunteer.

Ben Pennings
Coal and Gas campaigner