Environmental Law Australia

Kevin’s Corner Coal Mine Case

The Kevin’s Corner Coal Mine is one of the mega-mines proposed to be developed in the Galilee Basin of central Queensland.

It is being developed in parallel with the adjacent Alpha Coal Mine, which is the subject of a separate case study. Both mines are proposed by a joint venture of GVK, an Indian company, and subsidiaries Hancock Prospecting, an Australian company.

If approved, the mine is intended to produce 30 million tonnes of thermal coal per annum over 30 years. Coal from the Alpha and Kevin’s Corner mines is proposed to be shipped by a new rail line to the Port of Abbot Point for export.

The mine is proposed to consist of two open-cut pits and underground workings. The proposed Alpha Coal Mine borders the mine to the south.

The mine began its application process in 2009 and has not yet been fully approved or commenced operation.

In Queensland, the major approvals required for large mines under State and Federal legislation are:

The Queensland Coordinator-General declared the mine and rail project a “significant project” in 2008 (this designation later changed to being a “coordinated project”) under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (Qld).  This legislation provides an environmental impact statement (EIS) process for large projects but does not actually approve the projects occuring. An EIS under it is fed-back into other approval processes.

An EIS was prepared for the mine and rail project in 2009-2012 and the Coordinator-General issued a report in 2012 recommending the mine be approved.

Concurrently with the Queensland assessment of the mine, it was assessed under the EPBC Act using a bilateral agreement and subsequently approved by the Commonwealth Environment Minister in 2013.

Following the Coordinator-General’s report, the mine was publicly advertised for objections under the MRA and EPA in 2013.

A number of objections were received, including from graziers around the property such as Bruce and Annette Currie and Janeice Anderson, who objected to the potential impacts of the proposed mine on groundwater.

A number of conservation groups also objected to the proposed mine on the basis of groundwater impacts and the contribution that the mine would make to climate change. The objection of one of those groups, Coast and Country Association of Queensland Inc (CCAQ), is the focus of this case study.

An objection hearing was held in the Land Court in 2015.

The Land Court recommended the mine be approved in 2017 but the mining lease and environmental authority have not yet been issued.

The following footage is a Channel 10 news report on the Land Court’s decision on 4 July 2017:

Postscript: poor coal market puts mines on hold

Since 2013 both the applications for the Alpha Coal Mine and the Kevin’s Corner coal mine have largely stagnated:

  • The mining lease for the Alpha Coal Mine has been delayed, apparently at the request of the proponents; and
  • The proponents supported lengthy delays in the lead-up to the objections hearing for the Kevin’s Corner Mine in 2015 (in stark contrast, most mine applicants seek expedited hearings to minimise delays).

The reason for the proponents’ support for the delays appears to be due to them deciding the mines were not financially viable with the low price of thermal coal from 2012-2016 and the poor outlook for the coal market.

While the applications for the mines have not been withdrawn and continue at this point in time, whether the mines actually proceed in the future appears to be dependent on a substantial recovery of the coal price and outlook for the coal market.

Key documents

Application and EIS documents

CCAQ objection, core evidence & closing submissions

Land Court decision