Xstrata’s bid for QLD’s biggest coal mine: court hears of losses and gains

The historic court case between mining giant Xstrata and local farmers and environmentalists had its first day in court yesterday.

Friends of the Earth and local farmers are fighting against Xstrata’s proposed coal mine in Queensland, where it has bought 40 000 hectares of grazing land at Wandoan and gained government approval for the project.

Despite the approval, locals have banded together to fight the miner, with 20 individual objections filed by locals.

The court heard a former consultant of Xstrata told landowners at a past community meeting that the area should become like the Hunter Valley of Queensland.

He did not deny making the comments, or telling locals they should forget about the planned estimate of 30 million tonnes of coal per year to be produced at the mine.

Thatcher admitted the company made a formal protest against the plans of a local farmer to expand a feedlot and said it was made on environmental grounds.

He denied accusations Xstrata opposed the expansion because it would be a bigger financial cost when it did buy the land.

Documents tabled by Xstrata show the mine would result in reduction in agriculture productivity of more than 10 per cent, a cost to the region of about $500 000 annually.

But all would not be lost, the company pointed out, as while there would be some decline in agricultural output, the mine would generate almost $4 billion in royalties for the Queensland government, adding $336 million to the economy and creating 1740 jobs.

Xstrata outlined the issues concerning residents and activists in a statement today and said it stands by its environmental assessment of the mine.

“Objections have been received on issues including: the impacts of mining, greenhouse gas emissions associated with the mining and subsequent burning of coal, road access to landholder properties , effects on cattle, and groundwater impacts,” it read.

“Xstrata Coal has followed a rigorous environmental assessment and review process throughout each stage of the Mining Lease Application process in accordance with all legislative requirements.”

It has promised to take the environmental impacts into consideration if the mine goes ahead.

“Under the Queensland Government’s land rankings, land to be affected within the Mining Lease Application area has not been categorised as high-quality agricultural land.

“As mining proceeds, Xstrata Coal will rehabilitate the affected land to either its pre-mining condition, bushland or grazing land where possible throughout the mine’s life.”

“Xstrata Coal has continued to transparently report the emissions profile for the Project throughout the approvals and community engagement process.”

The miner says it entered into mutually-agreeable purchase agreements with over 90 per cent of affected landholders in the proposed mining area, and has accommodated individual needs as required.

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