Proposed Coal Mine in Queensland Would Destroy More Than 2,000 Acres of Koala Habitat

A koala in southeast Queensland.

A koala in southeast Queensland. Doug Gimesy / WWF Australia

A proposed coal mine in Queensland, Australia would eliminate more than 2,000 acres of koala habitat and more than 150 acres of greater glider habitat, two species that were recently listed as endangered.

The Vulcan South mine, which is currently awaiting approval from the Queensland government, will not require an environmental assessment, as mining firm Vitrinite has said the project will yield just 1.95 million metric tons of coal yearly, slightly less than the 2 million metric tons that would require the company to produce an environmental impact statement, The Guardian reports. Vitrinite has already been cleared to build an adjacent mine, Vulcan, which will also produce 1.95 million metric tons of coal annually — and destroy roughly 500 acres of koala habitat.

Jonathon Dykyj of Mackay Conservation Group, a Queensland-based environmental organization, has called for eliminating the 2 million metric ton threshold for environmental reviews, given the number of projects that stay below that amount. “That to me is a disturbing trend,” he told The Guardian. “That mechanism should just be taken off the table.”

From 2018 to 2021, Australia’s koala population dropped an estimated 30 percent as expanding cities and farms and worsening bushfires destroyed their habitat. In February, the Australian government listed the iconic marsupials as endangered. This month it added the greater glider, a cat-sized marsupial able to glide up to 100 yards through the air, to its endangered list, also owing to habitat loss.

Over the past two centuries, Australia has lost more mammals than any other continent, with invasive species and habitat loss as the biggest drivers of the decline, according to a new government report. Rising temperatures are now compounding the risks to species by fueling worsening droughts and bushfires.

“In a rapidly changing climate, with unsustainable development and use of resources, the general outlook for our environment is deteriorating,” the report said.

Australia’s new prime minister Anthony Albanese has set a goal of slashing carbon emissions by 43 percent by 2030, but he has not committed to blocking new coal mines.

“The Albanese Government says new fossil fuel projects need to ‘stack up environmentally’ to be approved. In 2022, no coal mining project can stack up environmentally,” Paul Bambrick, of the Queensland-based environmental group Capricorn Conservation Council, said in a statement. “It is time to take action and start the transition to cleaner energy. The first step is to not approve any new coal and gas mines.”


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