Huge Australian coal mine wins conditional approval

A huge Aus$6.4 billion (US$6.3 billion) coal mine in Australia's Galilee Basin owned by Indian infrastructure giant GVK and the world's richest woman Gina Rinehart Tuesday won conditional approval.

The Alpha Coal Project in Queensland state is expected to generate 3,600 jobs during construction and nearly 1,000 once in operation, producing around 30 million metric tons of thermal coal each year.

Queensland Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said the mine was given the green light following a four-year process, subject to 128 conditions to manage social and environmental impacts.

"There'll be an estimated Aus$11 billion boost to the economy during the mine's three year construction phase. 80 percent of that will be retained in Queensland," Seeney said in a statement to the local parliament.

"Once operational, Queensland's economy should see an economic boost of Aus$1 billion per year from this mine alone.

"Australia can expect an Aus$80 billion dollar rise in exports over the life of the mine," he added.

The federal government still needs to sign off on the mine that Rinehart's Hancock Coal describes as the jewel in the crown of the largely untapped and resource-rich Galilee Basin.

The company anticipates construction between 2013 and 2016 with the mine having a 30-year life.

Greenpeace vowed to fight the decision, saying the project would undermine efforts to limit global warming.

"This mine would result in 65 million tonnes of carbon pollution a year, which is about the same as putting 18 million cars on the road or it's more than 10 percent of Australian emissions," said spokesman John Hepburn.

Australia is the world's largest coal exporter and India is heavily dependent on the resource for power generation.

Indian companies are increasingly competing for global coal assets as they build power projects, steel and other plants to fuel the country's fast-growing economy.

GVK own 79 percent of Alpha Coal with Hancock having the remaining 21 percent stake.

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