Clive Palmer’s Galilee Coal Project – to build the biggest thermal coal mine in Australia and produce almost four times that of the Adani mine – has been rejected by the Queensland Land Court.
Youth Verdict, a coalition of young Queenslanders, and environmental conservation group The BimbleBox Alliance, challenged the Waratah Coal project in court over the proposal on the Galilee Basin west of Emerald.
The groups argued burning coal from the mine will impact the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by further contributing to adverse climate change.
The court also heard arguments that the effects of climate change were a human rights violation.
Queensland’s Land Court president, Fleur Kingham, recommended both the mining lease and an environmental authority should be rejected on Friday.
The applications will now be determined by the Queensland Government.
“This case is not about whether any new coal mines should be approved. It is about whether this coal mine should be approved on its merits.
The lengthy hearing included a visit to Country after First Nations people invited the Land Court to hear evidence on their land about the impact of climate change.
Ms Kingham said this case was about whether the controversial coal mine project should “be approved on its merits”.
She said the impacts of climate change was a “key issue” in her decision to reject the two applications.
“What is in dispute is whether I can take into account the emissions from combustion of the coal,” Ms Kingham said.
“Waratah says the Court has no control over the emissions, because approving the applications does not approve the combustion of the coal.
“That will be a decision made in the countries to which the coal will be exported.
“However, granting permission to mine the coal cannot be logically separated from the coal being used to generate electricity.
“The justification for the mine is to export coal for that purpose.”
Ms Kingham said she had ultimately decided to “take the emissions into account” as a matter of law.
“This case is about Queensland coal, mined in Queensland, and exported from Queensland to be burnt in power stations to generate electricity,” she said.
“Wherever the coal is burnt the emissions will contribute to environmental harm, including in Queensland.”
Ms Kingham said she had also found if the mine is ultimately approved then human rights would be “limited” by the project.
“For the owners of Bimblebox, that is their right to property and to privacy and home,” she said.
“In relation to climate change, I have found that the following rights of certain groups of people in Queensland would be limited: the right to life, the cultural rights of First Nations peoples, the rights of children, the right to property and to privacy and home, and the right to enjoy human rights equally.
“Doing the best I can to assess the nature and extent of the limit due to the Project, I have decided the limit is not demonstrably justified.
“For each right, considered individually, I have decided the importance of preserving the right, given the nature and extent of the limitation, weighs more heavily in the balance than the economic benefits of the mine and the benefit of contributing to energy security for Southeast Asia.”
Bimblebox Nature Refuge Co-owner Paola Cassoni said the result was a huge sign of relief for them after 15 years of nightmares.
“Hopefully we can now go back, with the help of our volunteers, to fully concentrate on looking after Bimblebox.”
First nations lead campaigner for Youth Verdict Murrawah Johnson said she shed “tears of joy” when hearing the verdict on Friday.
She said the landmark decision is a win for climate and human rights challengers.
“As a Wirdi woman, I am proud that this case was able to raise the bar for the respect given to First Nations knowledge and customs in the western courtroom. We are excited that we were able to use the Human Rights Act to advocate for changes to Land Court process based on cultural rights grounds.
“This is a world first and we hope the ministers in government – who the decision lies with – will heed the recommendation of the Land and Environment Court and not allow Waratah to go ahead,” Ms Johnson said.
“This means that human rights have to be considered in the approval process for new coal mines in Queensland.
“This means First Nation cultural rights have to be considered in the approval for new coal mines in Queensland.
“Today is remarkable in the sense that the government Land and Environment Court recommendation that they can go forth and actually represent the people of Queensland and their human rights into the future.”
“Billionaire Clive Palmer wants to line his pockets by building a new coal mine in a time when we must move away from extractive industries that destroy Country and fuel climate change. First Nations peoples will not stand by while coal-fuelled climate change destroys our Countries and further threatens our connections to culture.”
One of the First Nations people who gave evidence during the hearing, Harold Ludwick, said the decision was “a win for the nation”.
“The Indigenous are least responsible for the climate change but he most effected,” he said.
“This wasn’t just a fight for us but for the children of tomorrow.
“This isn’t about black or white, this is about the future.
“It commons sense can prevail if you want to understand.
“I hope the minister for the mines and the minister for environment understand the complications and implications for what will come.”