A coal mine in New South Wales that has been granted approval to double its production will be the first to face climate change as a legal argument against its expansion.
The Ulan mine, north of Mudgee in the New South Wales central west, is up against opponents of its expansion who say it conflicts with Australia’s commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions, the ABC reports.
The argument against the Xstrata-owned mine is not restricted to the Mudgee region, but extends far beyond the area.
The Hunter Environment Group argues the Ulan expansion should be prevented on the grounds that it will worsen climate change.
"Multinationals the size of Xstrata have the resources to become responsible global citizens and could be investing in other industries," Bev Smiles from the group told the ABC.
The plan to consolidate current operations would apply for the next 20 years and maximum production would go from 10 million tonnes a year to 20 million.
According to the NSW Nature Conservation Council, the mine would create 575 million tonnes of carbon pollution over its life.
"We have increasingly robust evidence that the total cost of climate change under different scenarios will be enormous," Pepe Clarke from the Council said.
"Expert evidence will be presented on the total volume of carbon dioxide emissions from the coal and the true cost of this at a global level."
Smiles said one of the issues with the expansion is based on the fact it was approved by the previous state government.
"At the same time we’ve had two other major very large mines next door to it, so we’re looking at cumulative impact now," she said.
During the election campaign, the NSW Liberals promised better examination of mining projects in the state and since being elected have implemented a moratorium on all new coal and coal seam gas (CSG) projects.
If the expansion is approved, environmentalists hope conditions will at least be placed on the company to reduce the impact of the plan.
But lawyers for Xstrata told the ABC if the court demands offsets for the project, it would be guessing about Australia’s future climate change policy.
The company says the approval that was given was based on more stringent environmental conditions, including air quality and emissions.
A similar issue with future climate changed was reported yesterday with the expansion of the Ranger mine in the Kakadu National Park.
Traditional owners said Energy Resources Australia could potentially damage the land with the uranium mine, as environmental estimates are expected to change.
ERA dismissed the claims, arguing that planning for the mine includes climate change modelling and if climate forecasts change it will adjust its plans then.
Image: Ulan Coal