Climate win: Australia blocks new coal mine 10km from Great Barrier Reef 

The Australian government has blocked a proposed coal project just 10km from the Great Barrier Reef.
The Australian government has blocked a proposed coal project just 10km from the Great Barrier Reef. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Charlotte Elton with Reuters
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For the first time ever, Australia's federal government has blocked a coal mine using environmental law.


Australia has blocked a proposal for a new coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef.

On Wednesday, the Australian government declined to grant permission for a new thermal coal project just off the coast of central Queensland.

The news comes after public outcry over potential risks to the UNCECO World Heritage-listed reef.

"I've decided that the adverse environmental impacts are simply too great," Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said in a video posted to social media.

"The mine is an open-cut coal mine less than 10km from the Great Barrier Reef, and the risk of pollution and irreversible damage to the reef is very real."

The refusal marks the first time a coal mine has been rejected under federal environmental laws.

Why has Australia banned a coal mine on the Great Barrier Reef?

The project would have involved two open-cut pits - a type of coal mine which is an open pit - and would have led to the extraction of 10 million tonnes of coal per year.

It was expected to operate for 20 years.

Burning coal is a huge cause of carbon emissions and air pollution.Canva

After the Labor government were elected to power last year, newly-appointed Environment Minister Plibisek made an initial decision to reject the mine, pending public consultation.

In just 10 days, her department received 9,000 comments - with 98 per cent urging her to block the project.

On Wednesday, the government declined permission for a new thermal coal project owned by mining magnate Clive Palmer near the Great Barrier Reef.

The mine, owned by huge company Central Queensland Coal, is in the Styx Coal Basin.

Central Queensland Coal did not immediately respond to a request for comment; neither did billionaire owner Clive Palmer.

Is the Great Barrier Reef at risk?

Environmental experts say the UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef, the world's biggest coral reef ecosystem, is suffering from the significant impact of climate change and the warming of oceans.

Stretching 2,253 kilometres along the coast of northeast Australia, the massive underwater ecosystem is one of the great wonders of the natural world.

But the reef is severely threatened. Warming waters mean it has suffered four coral bleaching events in just seven years.

In November, a joint report from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and International Union for Conservation of Nature recommended that the reef “be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger”.

Is Australia phasing out coal?

Conservationists have celebrated the decision to block the Styx Coal Basin mine.


It is the latest in a series of environmental wins since the new government took power last year. Australia aims to cut CO2 emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 - an increase on pre-election targets of just 26 per cent.

However, in July, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese rejected a moratorium on coal.

Australia remains a significant exporter of fossil fuels , making its emissions per capita among the highest in the world.

With a population of just 26 million (0.33 per cent of the world’s population), the country is responsible for 3.6 per cent of global emissions.

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