Australian Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek Wednesday refused an application from mining magnate Clive Palmer to build an open cut coal mine ten kilometres from the world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. The refusal marks the first time that Australian authorities have blocked a coal mine under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act.About 9,000 public submissions and comments were made in just 10 business days. In a statement, Plibersek said the “adverse environmental impacts are simply too great,” and “the risk of pollution and irreversible damage to the reef is very real.” Plibersek noted in a videoed statement that the “project would have had unacceptable impacts on freshwater in the area and potentially on fragile seagrass meadows that feed dugongs and provides breeding grounds for fish just off the coast.”Environmental groups welcome the move, citing The International Energy Agency’s opinion that there should be no new coal and gas projects if the world is to stay within safe limits of global heating. The Australian Conservations Foundation said they urge Plibersek to keep listening to scientific experts and the community and reject the dozens of other coal proposals waiting for final approval.The Queensland Conservation Fund called the move historic, saying, “Minister Plibersek has acted to protect the Great Barrier Reef, our children’s future, and deserves congratulations.” The mine would have resulted in 53m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in Australia, and produced 64m tonnes of coal that would create 192m tonnes of carbon emissions when burnt, according to the Queensland Conservation Fund.
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