A $1.2 billion Chinese coal mine could prove fatal for the koalas of New South Wales. According to conservationists, the construction of the Shenhua’s Watermark coal mine near the Liverpool Plains will destroy the marsupial’s habitat and affect their long-term survival.
The mine, provisionally approved last week, is expected to produce 10 million tonnes of coal a year for a period of 30 years, and create about 600 local jobs. Some 847 hectares of the animal’s habitat would have to be bulldozed for the mine, and some 262 koalas relocated.
“If this project goes ahead, the koalas on this site and surrounds are doomed,” Deborah Tabart, chief executive of the Australian Koala Foundation, told the Newcastle Herald.
Major risks to the koala, already classified as a “vulnerable” species by the Australian government, would include a higher likelihood of getting struck by cars and even the spread of koala chlamydia, as the animals are moved to different communities, according to advocates campaigning against the mine.
It’s not just koalas that are threatened by the project. Farmers are concerned about the mine’s impact on local water sources and agriculture. Australia’s environment minister Greg Hunt said earlier this week that he is willing to overturn the approval of the project if Shenhua’s operational and management plans fail to meet environmental standards when they are turned in in December.