Court: 'Negative impacts inevitable for proposed mega mines'

A GRAZIER has lost the latest battle with a Queensland coal mega-mine.

Bruce Currie owned Speculation cattle farm north of Jericho.

Mr Currie and his wife Annette said the GVK Kevin's Corner mine's groundwater demands would effectively destroy their livelihood.

The property, west of Emerald, was in the region where mining giants GVK Hancock and Adani wanted to begin major mining operations.

Currie went to the Land Court to stop the proposed $4.2 billion Kevin's Corner coal project in the Galilee Basin.

But in a new judgment delivered at the Land Court in Brisbane on Tuesday, Member Wayne Cochrane decided the recommendation for the Hancock mining lease ought to be granted.

"Inevitably ... mining projects of this magnitude will have negative impacts and undesired consequences on the environment, particularly in the immediate vicinity of the mine," Mr Cochrane said in the new judgment.  

"However I have come to the view that those consequences are outweighed by the benefits that will flow from the development of the mine."  

GVK Hancock wanted to extract about 30 million tonnes of coal a year at the combined underground and open cut thermal coal mine.

"The mine threatens the precious groundwater on which our cattle property and other farming businesses in the area depend," Mr Currie said earlier.

"My family … have waited for this decision with bated breath."

Bruce and Annette Currie, outside Brisbane Land Court on Tuesday, say they're not going to give up the fight.
Bruce and Annette Currie, outside Brisbane Land Court on Tuesday, say they're not going to give up the fight. John Weekes

Mr Currie said changes to Queensland water laws made it "even easier for big miners to rob farmers of groundwater".

He said the system was rigged against farmers, as the Queensland Government rolled out "the red carpet for big mining companies like Adani which was recently granted free and unlimited groundwater".

The grazier said without water, farmers' livelihoods would be destroyed.

But last October, a GVK Hancock lawyer told the court preliminary modelling found it was unlikely the Great Artesian Basin would be affected, The Australian reported.

Adani, an Indian multinational, was given the green light a month ago for the first part of its $21 billion Carmichael mine.

In March, Mr Currie travelled to India with a delegation, speaking to local landholders about their dealings with Adani.

GVK Hancock spokesman Josh Euler, outside Brisbane Land Court on Tuesday, says the mining company has carried out hundreds of environmental impact studies.
GVK Hancock spokesman Josh Euler, outside Brisbane Land Court on Tuesday, says the mining company has carried out hundreds of environmental impact studies. John Weekes

GVK spokesman Josh Euler said Tuesday's decision "really supports the comprehensive environmental assessments" the mining company had done.

He said comprehensive groundwater modelling gave the mining company a good understanding of what the area's groundwater impacts might be.

"In terms of the landholders in the region, we also have 'make good' agreements with landholders surrounding our mine," he said.

"What that does is, it holds us legally responsible for any impacts to groundwater in the area."

Kevin's Corner was granted 'project of state significance' status in 2008, he said.

The company's priorities now were addressing any remaining legal issues, then getting financing sorted, and then beginning construction.

The likelihood of further legal challenges was a question "for the environmental activists", Mr Euler said.

He said development of the Galilee Basin was one of Queensland's most significant regional economic projects in decades.

The development would generate thousands of job over 30 years, he said.

Galilee Basin grazier Bruce Currie
Galilee Basin grazier Bruce Currie

  Outside court, the Curries said the decision was disappointing, but they would not give up.

"My wife and I have worked too long and too hard just to walk away. And this is just total injustice," Mr Currie said.

"They don't know for sure what the full impacts are going to be," he said of the mining companies.

The Curries said the issue was one of broad, even national significance, as the farming sector which had produced food sustainably for generations battled mining companies concerned only with short-term gain.

Annette Currie said the couple previously won a battle over the Alpha mine, where a court ruled the mine should first get water licences for its groundwater impact.

But Mrs Currie said the government had ignored virtually all recommendations from that case.

"It's not necessarily the mining we object to … I just think there are other more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of generating electricity," she said.

Along with the Curries, The Coast and Country Association of Queensland, Mackay Conservation Group, and North Queensland Conservation Council also opposed the mining lease.   The project was about 50km north of the township of Alpha.

- NewsRegional

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