The Chinese-owned Shenhua Group has been given the OK to build an open-pit mine on 13.5 square miles of the Liverpool Plains, which puts hundreds of koalas at threat of being killed.
An Australian court has now ruled that the huge coal mine would be permitted to destroy a habitat that’s home to hundreds of the country’s already endangered koalas.
The mine is set on the fertile agricultural region 250 miles northwest of Sydney. The region is known for its koalas, and is sometimes referred to as the “koala capital of Australia.”
It has been estimated that 260 koalas currently live on the 2,000 acres of woodland that has been earmarked to be bulldozed for the mine.
Shenhua has said in response that it would relocate the koalas if they did not naturally disperse. However, the company admits that a translocation carries a “significant risk” to the animal’s survival. Biologists have also said that the mine will cut off a migration corridor for koalas.
According to Take Part, David Paull said in September:
“I’m very concerned about what is going to happen to that population of koalas.
“If we lose that population, (it) will weaken the whole meta-population, and the location of the mine will inhibit the ability of koalas to move in and out of the area. It could be a disaster.”
In 2008, Shenhua paid a $215 million fee to a left-leaning state Labor government for a license to explore 75 square miles of the Liverpool Plains for coal. The project triggered a rebellion among local farmers, who mounted a social media campaign against the mine, Take Part wrote.
The conservative federal government gave final approval for the mine in July 2015. Farmers and environmentalists then filed a legal challenge, arguing that the government failed to adequately consider the impact of the project on the koala, which is listed as a threatened species under federal law, Take Part added.
Learn more about the project with Land Water Future:
Farmers also fear that the coal mine may contaminate the extensive aquifer that has transformed the Liverpool Plains. “The hill where the mine is going to be is a source of water for the aquifer, as is all the hills in the district,” farmer Andrew Pursehouse told Take Part. “What’s the next generation going to say if we let this mine go through and destroy the underground water?”
However, the land and environment court rejected the farmers’ appeal, citing because the government had designated the mine as a “state significant development,” the endangered species protections for koalas will not have to be considered.
Chief Judge Brian Preston said in the ruling:
“Other legislative requirements to consider and decide whether development is likely to significantly affect threatened species, populations or ecological communities, or their habitats, do not apply to state significant development.
“There was no legal duty… to make definitive findings of fact… about the precise size of the population of koalas that were likely to be impacted by the project or the certainty of success of the koala translocation program, before determining to grant consent to the project.”