Community waits out calm before stormCeleste Greinke The Messenger Mail May 23, 2012 10:00AM
Activist groups will have to wait a little longer to lodge an official submission to the Coordinator-General against the Environmental Impact Statement submitted by Xstrata Coal for the region’s Balaclava Island Coal Port Terminal project.
The project, which has been on the cards since October 2009, is nearing the final stages of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process as evaluations are expected to occur within the next few months.
From here the Coordinator-General will either approve or decline Xstrata’s Balaclava Island proposal.
The EIS involves looking at strategies which will mitigate and offset direct and indirect project construction along with commissioning, operation and decommissioning.
If approved, construction of the 35 million tonnes per annum capacity shipping terminal, located 40km south of Rockhampton in the Gladstone Port precinct, will commence immediately.
The terminal will allow for the export of coal from the Bowen and Surat Basins to international markets.
Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance (KAFDA) Coordinator Ginny Gerlach maintains the port poses the single biggest environmental threat to the Fitzroy River Delta, Keppel Bay and The Great Barrier Reef that Queenslanders are likely to see in their lifetime.
“We are interfering with the environment of the Fitzroy River, which is the second largest river system in Australia and is vitally necessary to the health of The Great Barrier Reef,” Ms Gerlach said.
“I just don’t think that any environmental safe guards will be available to make sure the reef is safe,” she said.
“There is a real lack of trust issue with the environmental processes and the fact that we have all of these developments driven by the state-owned Gladstone Port Corporation”.
“There needs to be growth and development in our region, but at what cost?”
She also said it was critical the Rockhampton Regional Council understood the impacts and supported the community in its campaign to stop the development.
“Now we’re going to meet with our local councillors to encourage them to represent the community’s concerns,” Ms Gerlach said.
This comes after comments from the region’s mayor Margaret Strelow, who stated she was open to what she had so far heard on the Fitzroy Terminal and was “keen to hear from Xstrata pending the EIS”.
“We’re not talking about the NIMBY factor (not in our backyard). We’re talking about something that is of national significance –The Great Barrier Reef,” Ms Gerlach said.
“Our next step is to take this campaign to a national level,” she said.
Capricorn Conservation Council Coordinator Michael McCabe agreed with KAFDA’s stance and said people should not be swayed by the prospect of landing high-paid mining jobs.
“I’ve seen the booms and busts in Gladstone for over 50 years, and often locals don’t get these jobs,” Mr McCabe said.
“Unemployment goes up when people move to an area because they think it is happening, but instead you have companies who bring in contractors to do this work,” he said.
“A coal port is not a big employer once it’s finished construction”.
“Nature and people are subsidising the profit being taken from coal mining,” he said.
Despite these claims, Xstrata Coal are confident they will have a positive impact in the Central Queensland region.
Spokesperson Lauren Sewell stated the EIS was expected to be “a leading study meeting international standards”.
“During construction of the proposed terminal there will be a peak workforce of around 800 people, and around 25% of these are expected to be hired from the Rockhampton and local area,” Ms Sewell said.
“The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will provide an analysis of the proposed project’s potential impacts on the various fish, marine mega fauna, bird and crustacean species as well as vegetation communities”.
“It is believed the EIS will show minimal potential impacts because of site selection, project size and design,” she said.
The mining magnate already operates several open cut and underground operations in Queensland, including Rolleston, Oaky Creek, Newlands and Collinsville.