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Clive Palmer’s Central Queensland Coal Project has progressed to the next stage of environmental scrutiny, with the State to hand down a report by April 28.

The Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES) said it had decided that the Environmental Impact Statement for the project could proceed to the assessment report stage

It stressed that this did not mean the project was approved.

“While the department is undertaking the assessment on behalf of the Commonwealth for matters of national environmental significance, the final decision on the Commonwealth environmental approval rests with the Federal Minister for the Environment,” a spokesman said.

“DES will now prepare an assessment report for the project that will consider the impacts of the project, submissions from stakeholders and advice from relevant agencies. 

“The assessment report will make recommendations about the suitability of the project to inform approval decisions.” 

The project hit the headlines last month when it was revealed the Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC) had expressed extreme concern that the mine operator would not be able to mitigate predicted environmental impacts – especially the discharge of mine-affected water into Broad Sound and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

“The IESC cannot envisage any feasible mitigation measures, including offsets, that could safeguard these irreplaceable and internationally significant ecological assets and their associated water resources,” the committee wrote.

But Central Queensland Coal argues that the IESC review did not consider any of the relevant new work that was undertaken to address the committee’s previous comments.

It said assessments by independent consultancies in accordance with relevant State and Commonwealth guidelines had found no significant impacts to the Great Barrier Reef or the Broad Sound Fish Habitat Area. (Full company response HERE)

Mr Palmer owns Central Queensland Coal through companies including Fairway Coal and Mineralogy.

The Central Queensland Coal Project, in the Styx Basin north-west of Rockhampton, is proposed to produce up to 10 million tonnes per year of product thermal and coking coal.

Central Queensland Coal says the project will create 167 new permanent direct jobs for the local region at a time when communities in the Yaamba and Clairview region had significantly reduced in size due to the removal or closure of services and work opportunities

The mine would initially commence operations with a 1Mtpa open-cut mine, eventually ramping up to 2Mtpa and in later years up to 10Mtpa.

The DES said the assessment report would consider public submissions and advice from relevant agencies, including the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and the Independent Expert Scientific Committee.