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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Lisa Cox

BHP proposal to extend Queensland coalmine until 2116 ‘delusional’, activists say

A truck carrying a load drives through a mining site
BHP has applied to expand its Peak Downs metallurgical coalmine in Queensland for up to 93 more years. Photograph: Jessica Hromas/The Guardian

Activists say a proposal from BHP to extend a metallurgical coalmine in Queensland by up to 93 years is “delusional”.

The company has applied to expand its Peak Downs mine in the Bowen basin, which it operates in a joint venture with Mitsubishi.

Under the proposal, the mine would be expanded into a new area of the site covering about 4,000 hectares. It would involve clearing of habitat for the endangered koala, greater glider and other threatened species.

In a referral submitted to the federal environment department, the company says the latest end date for the project, if approved, would be 2116.

Harriet Kater, the climate lead at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, said the move to extend the mine for 93 years was “delusional” and “it’s hard to imagine anyone had a straight face when they keyed those dates in”.

“What part of net zero by 2050 does [BHP] not understand?” she said.

“The company has been speaking out both sides of its mouth on climate change for too long.

“It is hard to imagine that BHP’s carefully curated reputation for climate leadership can withstand such decisions for much longer.”

In August BHP said any BMA (BHP Mitsubishi Alliance) metallurgical coal growth was on hold after changes to Queensland’s resource royalty scheme.

The company has however previously indicated it does not believe high-quality coking coal demand is likely to reduce any time soon.

In the same month, BHP sought federal approval to build another metallurgical coalmine south of Blackwater in central Queensland. That project would run for up to 90 years.

“BHP’s attempts to expand its Peak Downs project and mine coal for another 93 years demonstrate how hollow its recent threats were over the Queensland government’s modest royalties increase,” said Ellie Smith, the spokesperson for Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland.

Smith said the proposal had been submitted to the federal government in the same week the environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, launched a new threatened species action plan promising no new extinctions of any Australian wildlife.

“Unfortunately, this [proposal] also means the many threatened animals in the path of BHP’s planned expansion face a real threat.”

A spokesperson for the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance said: “The world will need reliable long-term supplies of higher quality metallurgical coal for steelmaking, to support economic development and to make the infrastructure required for decarbonisation.

They said they remained concerned about the Queensland government’s “significant” increase to coal royalties.

“The near tripling of the top royalty rate will make future Queensland projects less competitive and less likely to go ahead.”

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