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Central Queensland Coal insists there is a way forward for its contentious coal project after a State report that points to ‘unacceptable risks’.

In a media statement, the Department of Environment and Science said its assessment report recommended that the Central Queensland Coal Project, 25km north-west of Marlborough, was not suitable to proceed.

“The project poses a number of unacceptable risks primarily due to its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area, the Broad Sound Fish Habitat Area, Tooloombah Creek, Deep Creek, the Styx River Estuary, and nearby groundwater ecosystems,” a DES spokesperson said.

But Central Queensland Coal managing director Nui Harris said the environmental assessment report provided a pathway for mine operations.

He said key areas to be addressed included project impacts to the receiving environment, groundwater resources and the Bruce Highway, which had been largely dealt with within the Environmental Impact Statement.

“Central Queensland Coal will work closely with the department to mitigate these impacts, with a view of applying for an environmental licence to commence operations,” he said.

The Central Queensland Coal Project, formerly known as the Styx Coal Project, is proposed as an open-cut operation expected to run for about 20 years and produce up to 10 million tonnes per annum of run-of-mine coal.

The project would employ more than 200 people during the initial two-year construction period; 100–500 during operation; 150 during the construction period for an open-cut to be brought online in years nine to 11 of the mine operation; and 20 during decommissioning.

The department stressed that its assessment report recommendation was not the final decision for the project. 

“The final decision for approval for Commonwealth matters such as the Great Barrier Reef now rests with Commonwealth Minister for the Environment,” the spokesperson said.

The assessment report will also inform any State decision on Environmental Authority and Mining Lease application.

It provides an evaluation of the EIS prepared by proponents Central Queensland Coal and Fairway Coal, wholly owned subsidiaries of Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy.

The project hit the headlines in January 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.

Report finds ‘unacceptable risks’ in CQ coal project