Australia 'considering' miner's application to destroy 770 hectares of koala habitat

Koalas are facing extinction in both NSW and Queensland due to ongoing habitat loss.

Australia’s government is continuing to "carefully consider" whether to allow a mining company to destroy 770 hectares of endangered koala habitat.

If fully approved, resources company Vitrinite would be permitted to construct its Vulcan South mine in Queensland's Bowen Basin and extract 13.5 million tonnes of coal over a nine-year period. Around 70 hectares of greater glider habitat would also be cleared. That species was declared endangered in 2020 after their numbers plummeted 80 per cent in just two decades after the ancient trees they nest in were destroyed.

Behind the application is privately owned resources company Vitrinite which claims to be a “young, progressive” company” with an “open and collaborative attitude, inward and outward”. It has not responded to repeated requests for comment from Yahoo News.

A maps shows how the original plan submitted by Vitrinite would result in the removal of koala habitat (right). A close up of a koala (left)
Construction of the new Vulcan South mine could result in the removal of koala habitat. Source: Getty (File)/Vitrinite

Government 'carefully considering' new mine application's impact on koalas

Opponents of the project, including Lock the Gate, had hoped Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek would immediately reject the application, but in March she instead referred the matter for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EBPC) so the impact of the project on threatened species could be further assessed.

"Together, we’re not just mining coal; we’re building a brighter future for all"Vitrinite

A question to Plibersek's office from Yahoo about the project was referred to her department which issued a statement.

“The department is in the early stages of assessing the Vulcan South coal mine under national environment law,” a spokesperson said last week. “ Once this assessment is complete, it will go to the minister for consideration. The minister will carefully consider the final assessment, departmental advice and any public comments received before deciding whether this project can go ahead.”

Journalists photograph a koala that was on display at the media centre during the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.
Australia's government has been criticised for using captive koalas at media events. Source: AAP

Why koalas are facing extinction in Queensland and NSW

Koalas were listed as endangered in NSW, Queensland and the ACT after around 60,000 were impacted by the Black Summer bushfires. Populations in Victoria and South Australia are reportedly stable.

In NSW it’s expected the species will be extinct by 2050, primarily due to the destruction of their forests. In Queensland, the state government has approved several high-profile projects that will remove significant amounts of remaining habitat, including for a new hospital and a freeway on the Gold Coast.

In Australia, politicians have been regularly criticised for posing with the animals for photo shoots, while also allowing the destruction of their homes.

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