Opponents of a massive coal mine planned for central Queensland have argued the project's approval would mean a world with no Great Barrier Reef, while taking a swipe at businessman Clive Palmer.
Youth Verdict and the 8000-hectare Bimblebox Nature Refuge, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, are objecting to the mining lease and environmental approval for Waratah Coal's proposed Galilee Coal Project.
Oral submissions to the Queensland Land Court sitting in Brisbane on Thursday are bringing an end to hearings that started six weeks ago.
They included a legal first with evidence given in line with Indigenous protocols in the Torres Strait and in Cairns. Traditional owner Jiritju Fourmile gave cultural evidence and testified about climate change impacts.
"To approve this mine is to decide that the world is going to be one where we have no Great Barrier Reef," the opponent's barrister, Saul Holt QC, told Land Court president Fleur Kingham on Thursday.
Mr Holt said under a smaller revised plan the project would still be more than twice the size of the next biggest thermal coal mine in Australia.
"Total carbon dioxide from this mine alone represents one per cent of the global carbon budget to limit global warming to 1.7 degrees," he added.
"That release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will occur over the very decades ... that are critical to limiting the most horrendous aspects of climate change."
The mine would have an economic benefit, primarily in royalties, but would also bring "a very profound harm", Mr Holt said.
"The question here is whether the harm caused by the mine, the price to be paid for it by the community, a price that will not be paid by the ultimate shareholder of Waratah Coal ... is worth that economic benefit," he added.
Mr Holt said Waratah Coal sat within Clive Palmer's Mineralogy group and its past performance was concerning.
"It operates at the whims of its single ultimate shareholder Clive Palmer ..."
"Given how little (Waratah Coal) has done on this proposed project over the last 12 years it is astonishing that it is nonetheless managed to commit two criminal offences of breach of its environmental authority, it's been the subject to an environmental protection order, it's failed at the most simple of regulatory tasks ... indeed it's very difficult to find anything in fact that it's done well," he told the court.
Mr Holt raised concerns about the longevity of the project saying the demand for thermal coal was dropping and likely price reductions could bring an early end to the mine and related royalties.
Waratah Coal is due to make oral submissions on July 21, but in opening submissions the company's lawyer Peter Ambrose QC argued that while coal is being phased out, there will still be demand during the life of the project.
Many countries are moving toward reducing emissions, but there could be "pockets of future growth" in fast developing areas in the Indo-Pacific, he said.
The coal to be extracted could displace lower quality coal from other sources, meaning less has to be burnt for the same energy output, Mr Ambrose argued.