GVK hits back at Alpha mine Greenpeace claims

Indian conglomerate GVK has hit back against criticism of its environmental credence after Greenpeace released a report saying its coal project in Queensland is unviable.

The infrastructure firm is investing $14.2 billion on two large coal mines in the Galilee Basin – Alpha and Kevin’s Corner – Abbot Point coal terminal at Bowen, and a 500 kilometre rail line to connect them.

On Wednesday, Greenpeace released a report compiled by a group pushing to decrease coal use.

The report said the Alpha project, approved by Queensland and federal governments, was ‘stranded in the valley of death’, the Sunshine Coast Daily reported.

UNESCO said it would omit the Great Barrier Reef from the ‘in danger’ list while expressing fears over coastal development near the reef.

GVK coal managing director Paul Mulder slammed the criticisms in an interview to APN, saying the UNESCO and the Greenpeace report were immaterial because GVK was operating above the world’s best environmental benchmark.

He said GVK spent $50 million for government-required environmental studies, using 250 scientists ‘ensure the science, process and intended operations met those highest environmental standards’.

For the environmentalists to then take on the role of financial analysts was deceptive, he said.

He added it was aggravating because the company aimed to be a ‘good corporate citizen’.

“The Australian people and international community do not like to be misled,” Mulder said.

“That isn’t what we’re about. We’re about factually stating our position on the work that we’ve done. Unfortunately, activists continue to get it wrong and misquote information.”

Mulder said while miners and governments were working together to understand the projects, UNESCO required more information.

“Unfortunately, these green activists behind the scenes are heavily lobbying inaccurate and misleading information to try to persuade UNESCO and others to take their view.”

A report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said GVK cannot afford the $10 billion Alpha project due to its over-commitment in 16 projects worth $US20 billion.

“As currently structured, GVK simply cannot afford to participate in the Alpha project due to its plummeting stock price, over leverage and poor track record,” a co-author of the report, Tom Sanzillo said.

“The cumulative picture of cascading multiple risks and inevitable delays and cost blowouts around the Alpha project means that there is limited investment potential.”

But GVK dismissed the report, according to the SMH, and told its banks to look forward to an ‘activist-motivated media campaign’ dragging out several weeks as the mine settles environmental approvals.

''Our projects are financially robust, with some of the lowest operating costs in the global coal industry [$US55 a tonne free on board] and represent a very large, high-quality and new source of low-ash, low-sulphur, low-gas thermal coal,'' it said.

The coal mine received Federal Government approval last year after Federal Environmental Minister Tony Burke suspended it in June, stirring a political and environmental conflict between stakeholders.

GVK Hancock recently appointed Thiess as mine operations contractor for the Alpha project. It will work with Thiess to develop a 10-year mine plan and budget after signing an Early Services Agreement.

Greenpeace’s report said the mine would have a maximum production capacity of 30mtpa and that when this amount of coal is burnt for electricity generation, it would produce 64.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equalling the 2009 carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion in Israel.

The report also said the mine would impact 20,618 ha of land, meaning thousands of hectares of habitat for threatened species would need to be cleared.  

A recent report from Climate Commission said Australian coal should be left in the ground to fight against climate change.

But the Minerals Council of Australia refuted the report, saying the tax-payer funded agency is 'following the same approach as the radical green movement'.

The study was labelled a 'taxpayer-funded environmental activism' by the industry.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters called for action from state and federal governments following UNESCO’s move to prohibit major port developments including Abbot Point until more examinations were carried out.

UNESCO will re-consider whether to include the reef to the in-danger list in a year’s time.

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