Australia’s environmental laws have been used to halt the development of a coal mine for the first time in the country’s history.
On Thursday, the government turned down a plan for a new coal mine less than 9 miles from the reef.
The already endangered World Heritage region was further threatened by the project, said to Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek.
Clive Palmer, a controversial Australian tycoon, has yet to reply to the refusal.
Central Queensland Coal, his company, proposed constructing an open-cut coal mine roughly 700 kilometres west of Brisbane that would generate thermal and coking coal and run for nearly 20 years.
Ms. Plibersek first raised the possibility of a federal ban on the coal mine last year. Her office got almost 9,000 comments in just 10 days after making it available to the public, with most of them requesting that the project be halted.
Last year, the state government of Queensland also urged the federal government to reject the idea due to the “severe” environmental concerns it posed.
The department overseen by Minister Plibersek found that silt and runoff from the open-cut mining will certainly damage the Reef and adjacent water supplies.
The minister stated in a video statement released on Wednesday, “I’ve determined that the harmful environmental repercussions are simply too large.”
It is the first time a federal Environment Minister has utilised their authority to reject a proposal, but state governments have done so before.
The newly elected Labor administration in Australia has been under pressure to halt any new coal and gas mining projects.
Environmentalists and political parties like the Greens argue that the government will not be able to assist prevent catastrophic climate change if it permits new mines, or keep global temperature below a 1.5C increase this century.
Australia is a leading exporter of fossil fuels around the world. With only 0.3% of the global population, the country is responsible for 3.6% of global emissions when exports are included.
Although the incoming administration has pledged to dramatically boost Australia’s emissions reduction target by 2030, it has also stated that it will approve any new fossil fuel projects that are economically viable.