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Yes, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek approved a coal mine. But save the angst for decisions that matter more

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate John Quiggin writes in The Conversation (15.5.23) about the Albanese government’s approval of a new coal mine project in the Bowen Basin in central Queensland, with federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek facing criticism from environmental activists.

‘The outcry was loud and swift last week after Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek approved a new coal mine in central Queensland. It’s the first coal mine Labor has approved since coming to power a year ago.

‘The project, the Isaac River mine, will extract metallurgical coal to be burned for steel-making. Environmental groups decried the potential damage the mine would cause to wildlife, water quality and the climate.

‘Any new coal mine is inconsistent with the global goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. But the Isaac River mine is probably the least bad of those recently under consideration.

‘The mine would produce only metallurgical coal, which is still needed by the steel industry, and would operate for just five years. Importantly, we shouldn’t let controversy over the approval of a small, short-lived mine distract from more consequential recent decisions on coal – and those still looming.’

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