Impact of Galilee Basin coal mines greater than first thought

Galilee Basin coal mines will have larger impact on water reserves

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Adani's Carmichael mine was one of the projects included in the assessment.

Adani's Carmichael mine was one of the projects included in the assessment.

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Scientists looked at the combined impact of seven mines

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The potential impact of Galilee Basin mining on central Queensland water flows is larger than first thought, a new government report says.

Federal government scientists recently released the results of modelling looking at the combined impacts of seven coal mines in the region.

They found there was more than a 95 per cent likelihood these mines would change water flows in the Belyando river basin.

A map of mining projects and potentially-impacted water reserves in central Queensland. SOURCE: Australian Government Bioregional Assessments

A map of mining projects and potentially-impacted water reserves in central Queensland. SOURCE: Australian Government Bioregional Assessments

“Cumulative hydrological changes in the Belyando river basin are very likely…and extend farther than previously predicted from impact assessments of individual mines,” the scientists wrote.

The modelling was included in a bioregional assessment report examining how Galilee basin water resources would be impacted by coal mining.

There was enough detail to study the combined impact of seven coal mines, while 10 mines where not included in the study due to a lack of information.

It was performed by scientists from CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, the federal environment department and Geoscience.

There was a 50 per cent chance that more than 1000 kilometres of streams would have three additional “zero flow” days per year as a result of coal mining, the study found.

The habitat of 12 threatened species and two ecological communities were also potentially at risk due to changes in water flows.

The study also found that water access rights in the small town of Jericho could be affected. 

“Five groundwater economic assets are potentially affected by additional drawdown, including three associated with the Clematis Group aquifer, and one associated with the Jericho town water supply.

“It is very unlikely that there will be drawdown greater than 2 m in any economic assets that rely on the Clematis Group aquifer.”

The impact of coal mining on water reserves is a concern for many Queensland producers.

Grazier Bruce Currie from the Lock the Gate Alliance said it was “beyond reckless” to continue mining coal in central Queensland.

“This bioregional assessment makes it very clear that the impacts on water resources from the planned coal mines extend much farther than was previously predicted by mining companies in their environmental assessments,” he said.

On Monday it also emerged that concerns have been raised about the groundwater management plan at Adani’s Carmichael mine, as well as the mine’s plan to manage species of the black throated finch.

“Advice from CSIRO requires Adani to update the [Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan,” the state Department of Environment and Science said. 

“DES will not continue to assess the [management plan] until an updated version is submitted.

“The Queensland Government takes environmental protections very seriously, and will consider the advice of the DEE, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia when assessing the plans.”

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