Melbourne: Australian government on Thursday said that coal-rich Queensland state will have no further role in the massive Alpha coal mine approval process following a dispute with GVK Group over environmental issues.
The federal and Queensland governments have been warring for more than a week over the approval process for the $6.36 billion coal mine in central Queensland. Queensland’s deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and environment minister Andrew Powell met with federal environment minister Tony Burke this morning in Sydney to discuss the dispute.
“The commonwealth will continue to deal with what it says are outstanding environmental issues Queensland failed to consider in its assessment,” AAP news agency reported.
Queensland government still has to come back by next week and show cause why it should not be suspended from a bilateral agreement aimed at streamlining major environmental approvals.
“The meeting with deputy Premier Seeney and minister Powell today was productive and is hopefully the first step in resolving the differences which have unfolded between the commonwealth and Queensland over the past fortnight,” Burke said in a statement. “It was agreed that now a commonwealth process has commenced to deal with the outstanding matters relating to the Alpha Coal project, this will continue to its completion,” he said.
Burke said there would also be discussions in coming days to determine how the current bilateral agreement might be amended to “create greater certainty for the environment and business”. “For whatever reasons the current bilateral has not delivered the twin aims of high environmental standards and a streamlined process for business. The work in coming days aims to resolve this,” he said.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had lashed out at the Queensland government over its handling of Alpha Coal mine project, claiming it had shaken investor confidence in the state.
The federal government on Wednesday halted the approval process for GVK’s Alpha project amid a dispute over environmental assessments affecting the Great Barrier Reef. In a sharply worded letter sent to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, Gillard accused him of threatening the Great Barrier Reef by cutting corners on the proposed Galilee Basin development in the coal-rich state.
The Alpha project which is expected to generate 4,000 jobs at peak is being run by Hancock Coal in which 79% owned by infrastructure giant GVK and 21% owned by Gina Rinehart, the world’s richest woman.