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Issue #1698      August 19, 2015

The fight is on for Galilee Basin

Queensland’s Galilee Basin breathes life to eastern Australia. It straddles the Great Dividing Range with its catchments feeding inland to Lake Eyre and its deep springs flowing all the way out to the Great Barrier Reef.

outhern Black-Throated Finch

In the Basin’s grassy, open woodlands, a 400-strong flock of the endangered Southern Black-Throated Finch holds tight to one of its last remaining strongholds.

Etched in its rocks and deep in its veins, is the ancient living culture of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners.

Right now Indian mining giant Adani is itching to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in the Basin. But the Federal Court has just revoked approval of the mine because the government didn’t do its homework.

From its massive contribution to global warming right down to the tiny finch it will drive to extinction, the impact will be colossal.

Stanley Tang is an ornithologist and zoologist, PhD candidate.

“Since I was a child, I’ve been passionate about birds. In 2009 I moved to Townsville to start my postgraduate studies at James Cook University and the Black-throated Finch became the focus of my PhD. My role is to gather the bird’s vital genetic information to provide useful guidelines for its conservation,” Tang said.

“Doing fieldwork, I was out in the bush five days a week, searching for the finch. It was the best part of my research – being out in the wild having close encounters with this beautiful and rare creature. I spent hours sitting next to a dam, waiting for the finches to come for a drink and a bath.

“I knew the birds lived in the Galilee Basin, but I had no idea they had such good numbers until I discovered a flock of about 400 birds in 2013. It was an amazing discovery as other flocks seen in the past few years have numbered only a few dozen, and it gives hope to the conservation outlook of the southern subspecies of the bird.

“After fruitlessly scouring the harsh country of central Queensland for days in search of the endangered Southern Black-throated Finch, the moment I finally heard its familiar descending whistle was one of relief and thrill. The 400-strong flock of birds that filled the sparse trees took my breath away,” Tang said.

“I want to see a future Australia where the government empowers robust and diverse community-based economies to make significant decisions. I hope, as these communities connect with the natural places that surround them, their decision-making will be underpinned by the love and understanding they share for their local environment.”

The Galilee Basin has the largest known population of the endangered Southern Black-throated Finch. The mine’s proponent, Adani, acknowledges that the destruction of nearly 10,000 hectares of habitat will significantly impact the finch and plans to offset the damage are woefully inadequate.

If the mine goes ahead it will be Australia’s largest coal mine and one of the biggest in the world. It is expected to produce 60 million tonnes of coal which, if burnt, will contribute 130 million tonnes of carbon each year to global warming, four times New Zealand’s annual climate pollution.

The Galilee Basin sits on top of the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest underground aquifers in the world and much of inland Australia’s only reliable water source. The proposed mine would require a whopping 12 billion litres of water every year and could dry up ancient springs and drain sections of the basin. It also has the potential to contaminate groundwater which would have a devastating flow on effect to a wide range of ecosystems in eastern Australia.

The Carmichael Coal Mine poses a huge threat to the Great Barrier Reef with its potential to pollute ecosystems that connect to and support the Reef, and the coal ships that will pass through the Reef’s waters if the mine goes ahead.

The Galilee Basin is a vital living cultural landscape for the Wangan and Jagalingou people – Traditional Owners who did not consent to the coal mine. The mine would have devastating impacts on the environmental and cultural heritage of the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

Add to that Adani’s shocking track record of environmental destruction and flouting regulations in India, the proposed mine is a recipe for disaster and should not under any conditions go ahead.

Next article – Fossil fuels – A fossilised government

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