AngloAmerican, CHPP, Moranbah North.
AngloAmerican, CHPP, Moranbah North. Csfoto - Christian Sprogoe

Mine expansion could have 'significant impact'

EXPANSION at a mine near Middlemount could have a "significant impact" on a group of vulnerable and endangered plants and animals, according to the Department of Environment and Energy.

A report tabled by Anglo Coal in November outlines the department's consideration that the proposed development, which would see Grasstree Mine extended by five new longwalls, may threaten five species. These include koalas, greater gliders, squatter pigeons, ornamental snakes and grey-headed flying foxes which are all classified as vulnerable.

The Brigalow tree, which is considered endangered, may also be impacted.

The department flagged the concerns during the company's application for federal environmental agency approval of its plans. In the report, an Anglo Coal spokesperson said more than 100 hectares of habitat would be removed for the development.

"Approximately 171ha of habitat for EPBC Act listed species, including remnant and non-remnant vegetation will be cleared for the project," the report detailed.

The clearing is required for the construction of gas drainage infrastructure, the construction of underground access boreholes and the installation of remedial damage works. If approved, the expansion would increase the longevity of the mine by about three years, extending the life of the mine until 2023.

In November, the Daily Mercury reported that the company believes if the expansion is not approved, operations out of the mine will cease in 2020 and could impact the job security of 590 employees.

An Anglo America spokesperson said there were efforts in place to mitigate any environmental damage.

"Throughout this routine approval process, Anglo American has undertaken an extensive investigation of flora and fauna in the area and will take a number of precautions to ensure affected species or habitats are protected," they said.

"Building on our existing flora and fauna management plans, we will be undertaking a number of initiatives, including the use of fauna spotter catchers to manage threatened fauna discovered within the project clearing footprint."

A spokesperson from the federal Department of the Environment and Energy said the department becomes involved in projects that are "likely to have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance".

"A proposal that is likely to have a "significant impact" on those matters must be referred to the Department," they said.

"The Grasstree extension project, proposed by Anglo Coal (Capcoal Management) Pty Ltd, is currently undergoing assessment because it was likely to have a significant impact under the EPBC Act."