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Environmental Law Attempting To Save Great Barrier Reef Blocks Creation Of Coal Mine

Australian billionaire, Clive Palmer, the owner of the Central Queensland Coal company, submitted a proposal to produce thermal and coking coal 435 miles off the coast of Brisbane, Australia. This type of coal is used to make coal tar, ammonia, lights, oils, and coal gas and is used in many manufacturing processes such as cement and paper manufacturing, food processing, and others. This coal mine was projected to be in operation for roughly 20 years.


However, due to environmental concerns, his proposal has been rejected by Environmental Minister Tanya Plibersek. She is recorded saying in a video on Twitter, “The risk of pollution and irreversible damage to the reef is very real. The project would have had unacceptable impacts on freshwater in the area and potentially on fragile seagrass meadows.”


The Great Barrier Reef is said to be one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. It expands over 1,400 miles off the coast of Queensland, Australia, and is home to over 9,000 known species. The coral reef helps protect property and life from damage and erosion due to its natural function as a buffer to the shoreline from storms and waves. However, it has already been exposed to six damaging bleaching incidents.


Coral bleaching happens when a reef releases zooxanthellae, a type of algae living in its tissue, when it is exposed to stress from ill conditions of temperature, light, or nutrients. Coral bleaching is survivable; however, it makes the coral at risk of other stresses and increases the chances of death. Coral bleaching can result in the decline of species diversification, as well have a negative impact economically. All around the world, coral reefs positively affect the economy through providing pharmaceutical supplements and tourist attractions, both of which would be negatively affected by the decline of the Great Barrier Reef. 


The coal mine proposal was set to be around 6 miles from the Great Barrier Reef. And after its rejection, the department received over 9,000 public comments on the decision, most of which were in favor of the mine’s rejection.


Plibersek claims that the protection of the Great Barrier Reef is not just an environmental decision but an economic one, stating that this reef alone has contributed 6 billion dollars to the economy and supports 64,000 jobs.


In this situation, Clive Palmer responds to his rejected proposal by stating he “didn’t expect that would happen,” and that action will be taken. His surprise is warranted given that this was the first time a coal mine has been rejected by the federal government of Australia. 


In response to this decision, there has been an increase in the number of proposals to stop other fossil fuel proposals. For example, Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens environment speaker, is quoted saying, “there [were] 118 new coal and gas projects in the pipeline. One down, 117 to go.” However, no law requires that a project include climate change impact projections, thus persuading the rejection of other fossil fuel projects by federal environmental law will not be as easy. 


In conclusion, Clive Palmer submitted a proposal aligned with a long-standing acceptance of mining in Australia, but culture is shifting toward renewable and environmentally conscious policies. And a proposal that previously seemed like an economic win for Palmer turned into a catalyst for environmental protection.  


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Tags: #environment #australia #coralreef #bleaching #coalmine


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