Even as Australia is struggling hard to bring down its carbon emissions, a mega thrmal coal mine is being proposed in Queensland by billionaire entrepreneur Clive Palmer.
His group has entered into a memorandum of understanding with China's Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) to develop the country's biggest thermal coal mine in the state.
The Waratah Coal project, called "China First," will mine 1.4 billion tons of coal in the Galilee Basin, southwest of Mackay in central Queensland in east Australia.
Palmer revealed it would cost 5.1 billion U.S. dollars and employ 6,000 people to get up and running by 2013. It will require490 kilometers of new rail lines and extensive port construction.
Palmer, who returned to Brisbane, the state capital of Queenland, from China this week, said, "MCC has agreed to be the engineering, procurement and civil (EPC) contractor of the project by providing a fixed price, lump sum construction price for the entire project."
He estimated the project would add about 45,000 jobs to the Australian economy and urged the Australian and Queensland governments to fast track approval. It involves six coal mines at Alpha in the state's central-west.
He recently launched a defamation suit against Premier Anna Bligh for making some damaging comments against him. Regardless, the state granted 'State Significance' status to the project and Ms Bligh told the Daily Mercury a few days ago that any investment of around 7.5 billion dollars was "not to be sneezed at."
"I welcome any proposal to develop jobs and job-generating projects in Queensland at this very difficult time," Ms Bligh said.
Waratah chief executive officer Peter Lynch said the original plans released last year were based on exporting 25 million tonnes of thermal coal each year and employing up to 4000 workers for construction.
However, the company has since found larger reserves of coal, upgraded its plans, and will now export up to 40 million tonnes a year and use about 6000 workers to build the infrastructure and 1500 to run the operation.
"We've upgraded the size of the project," Mr Lynch said.
"We have a much better idea of the area and we have more confidence.
"With 40 million tonnes, the economics are there for the rail line and port."
Appalled by the sheer scale of the project which should release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, the Capricorn Conservation Council proposed mock environment awards to Waratah Coal and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), for the danger they were posing to central Queensland.
The council's report on 2008 said the coal port proposal had shown a complete disregard for the environment and denounced Ms. Anna Bligh for her support to the mega project. Central Queensland must look beyond exporting coal if it wants a sustainable future. While mine workers and associated communities are getting good money in the short term, the burning of coal is directly contributing to climate change, said Ian Herbert, The Conservation Council's president.