Call for halt on new coal mines as report raises water fears

APPROVALS for new coal mines must be put on hold, according to a report commissioned by anti-mining group Lock the Gate, because government checks were not strong enough to protect water supplies.

Lock the Gate enlisted former water planning bureaucrat Tom Crothers through his firm Stellar Advisory Services for what it described as the first major analysis into how 10 planned coal mines for the Galilee Basin west of Rockhampton will affect underground water supplies.

The first mine off the blocks - GVK Hancock Coal's Alpha project - is currently embroiled in a Land Court battle with a group of Galilee landholders and environmental groups objecting to its $3.2 billion development.

The legal fight has a number of threads with landholders fighting to protect their water supplies, while environmental groups are tackling the mine for its threat to the global environment.

GVK Hancock is jointly owned by Indian energy multi-national GVK and Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting.

Its Alpha project has both state and federal environmental approvals.

If built, Alpha will require 1500 workers during construction and 800 once operating, with more workers needed to develop its rail and port infrastructure.

In his report, Draining Lifeblood: The Impact of Galilee Basin Coal Mining on Groundwater Resources, Mr Crothers says he has "grave concerns" about the impacts these mines could have on water supplies.

In his report, Mr Crothers finds, "groundwater supplies water for the 1000 or so people of the former JerichoShire - now part of the Barcaldine Regional Shire - and the 180,000-240,000 cattle pastured on properties in the Shire.

While this has been noted in government assessments, there is still no information on the impact to water supplies if every mine was built.

He finds governments need to be more comprehensive in considering these projects "in order to safeguard against potentially irreversible impacts".

Until that happens, there should be no new approvals for new mines, he said.

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