Clive Palmer’s $6.4 billion coal project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin has received environmental approval from the federal government.
Waratah Coal plans to build a thermal coal project near Alpha, west of Emerald in the state’s central west, plus a rail line linking the project to a proposed port at Abbot Point.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Friday approved the environmental impact statement for the project.
The approval is subject to 49 conditions that will avoid, mitigate or manage the impacts on the environment, most notably on water resources, his department said.
The proposed mine will have a life of approximately 30 years.
Waratah Coal managing director Nui Harris says it’s hoped the mine will open in late 2016 or early 2017.
“It’s taken a full five years and a lot of resources to get to this stage of the project,” he told AAP.
“We’ve been working closely with the Commonwealth government over the last 18 months and in particularly the last six months to see this end result.”
Environment groups have slammed the decision, saying large tracts of bushland including the Bimblebox nature refuge will be destroyed.
“We are deeply disappointed with this decision,” Bimblebox co-owner Paola Cassoni said in a statement.
“Minister Hunt is clearly kowtowing to mining interests over the conservation outcomes we have been working towards for years.”
Greenpeace said the approval was likely a Christmas gift for the influential new federal MP Mr Palmer.
“It’s one that will destroy the Bimblebox Nature Refuge and cause more emissions than many small countries,” spokeswoman Louise Matthiesson told AAP.
“We are seriously concerned there’s a conflict of interest with Clive Palmer having such a sway over the Senate and it’s reasonable to suspect it might have influenced (Minister) Greg Hunt’s decision.”
The Lock the Gate Alliance said the mine would also have unacceptable impacts on groundwater and the communities that depended on it.