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Environmental Economics: Queenslands Coal Mines- Real Cost of Pollution

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Adani has said that over a 60-year lifetime, the company expects to extract 2.3bn tonnes of coal, which would make it equivalent to the biggest mine in the US

It is proposed to have six open-cut pits as well as five underground mines, with a disturbance area more than 30km long. The company initially obtained approval to remove 60m tonnes of coal each year, but has scaled back its ambition to an initial production rate of 25m tonnes a year.

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There have also been decades of effort to protect the Reef. The Commonwealth and Queensland Governments have implemented various policies to mitigate the impacts of local threats and build resilience against other pressures. The Great Barrier Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan was established in 2015 for greater coordination between stakeholders to protect the future health of the Reef. In addition, significant government funding is committed each year to the research effort of understanding – and protecting – the complex nature of the Reef

While efforts to date have been substantial, the significance of the Great Barrier Reef’s contribution to the Australian economy, to Australian jobs and its remarkable asset value strongly indicates the Reef should be given even greater priority by all citizens, businesses and levels of government. Beyond the significant value added to the economy, the employment supported by the GBR is more than many of Australia's corporates including the likes of Qantas and Deloitte Australia. Considering this, the Reef is crucial to supporting economic activity and jobs in Australia – especially in Queensland with over half of the jobs coming from the GBR’s home state.

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Coal lobbyists occasionally give the unsubstantiated opinion that banning new thermal coal developments would have a material adverse impact on Australia’s global financial standing (Alstom, 2018). In IEEFA’s view, this “Sovereign Risk” argument is a hollow claim that has no standing. At a time when our key global trading partners have already been discussing climate risks for many decades, any modernisation of the government approval process that takes into account the growing global financial market consensus on the need for a high price on carbon and the clear and rapid exit from the use of unabated coal within the 2030-2050 timeframe will be accepted as belated and entirely justified.Alternatives to coking coal for the manufacture of steel are available. While structural timber is a commercially viable and proven alternative to steel in house frames and certain commercial building applications, and aluminium or carbon fibre can substitute for steel in cars, these alternatives have not yet been widely adopted globally

Absent a sustained, high price on carbon emissions and further technological innovation (for example, commercialising the use of zero emissions renewable energy or gas generated hydrogen as a substitute for coking coal), current alternatives to coking coal in the manufacturing of new steel have not been widely adopted, and while this will change, it is not posing the same immediate disruption as wind, solar and storage is posing to thermal coal (Siemens, 2018).

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As can be seen, mining can generate impacts that may aggregate and interact and/or contribute towards existing stresses within social and environmental systems generated from other (non-mining) activities

In this paper we have presented management and assessment approaches that seek to address the cumulative impacts of coal mining on regional communities and environments.

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Siemens, “Australia’s First Hydrogen Demonstration Park with Siemens Technology to be Built in Adelaide”, Press Release, 21 February 2018.

Alstom, “Alstom’s hydrogen fuel cell train wins 2018 GreenTec Mobility Award”, Press Release, 4 May 2018

IGCC, “Briefing Paper on the 2018 Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change”, December 2018

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