Coal and Coal Seam Gas

Global demand for coal is in terminal decline. This will lead to a significant structural shift in our economy. The Greens are concerned about the workers and communities that will be affected by these changes and have developed a comprehensive plan to assist workers to transition to industries of the future. The Greens are also concerned about the cost of abandoned mines and risk to the environment from derelict coal mines.

The Australian Greens believe that coal mining and unconventional gas — including coal seam gas, shale gas, tight gas and shale oil mining and underground coal gasification — pose unacceptable risks to Australia’s land, water and industries, such as agriculture, grazing and tourism and want:

  • no new coal seam, shale or tight gas, shale oil or underground coal gasification developments, given the short and long term risks to our water, land, communities, the climate, food production and marine areas;
  • the prohibition of both new coal mines and the expansion of existing mines;
  • the cessation of all existing underground coal gasification projects
  • ongoing independent research and monitoring of existing coal seam gas, shale and tight gas projects, especially those which involve fracking, to ensure they are not causing significant damage to aquifers, and withdrawal of approval of those projects if damage is occurring.

See After coal: Our plan for workers.

NSW Greens: Coal and Coal Seam Gas Policy

NSW Greens recognise that coal mined in NSW is a major source of greenhouse gases on a national and global scale, and are committed to phasing out the coal industry and its replacement with a jobs-rich, clean energy economy.

Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is not a ‘clean transition’ fuel because of the potential for substantial fugitive methane emissions associated with extraction and distribution. CSG may prove to be more damaging to the climate than coal mining and CSG exploration and extraction results in massive damage to:

  • the social and economic viability of communities in the vicinity of coal mines;
  • ecosystems, rivers, and the geological integrity of landscapes;
  • other wealth and employment generating activities including farming and tourism;
  • health of communities; and
  • climate.

The Greens NSW have developed a comprehensive policy to promote a fast transition of our energy systems from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and are committed to:

  • just transitions for communities that have traditionally derived income from coal mining operations, and
  • support job creation and the development of a secure economic future for those communities.

Coal seam gas

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham has been a leader in the campaign to protect land, water and communities from the threat of coal seam gas. In a recent media release he called on governments to stop the spread of coal seam gas and for the true impact of fugitive emissions to be independently assessed. This followed the filming of methane gas burning through the Condamine River which can be viewed here.

Apart from the impact on climate change from the burning of gas and the fugitive emissions of methane, coal seam gas also raises issues relating to its high demand for water and its impact on groundwater, agriculture, the environment and local communities.

Various governmental, advocacy, policy and research groups have produced important reports relating to coal and coal seam gas.  We have also included links to some media reports of current interest. The Greens do not necessarily endorse the content of these reports but we provide them as interesting background.

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) have produced the following fact sheets:

The Environmental Defenders Office NSW produces fact sheets on various issues including one explaining how coal seam gas projects are assessed and approved, with a focus on the provisions which allow landholder and public participation.

The Conversation has published several articles about coal and coal seam gas (all include links to further information) including:

Health impacts of coal

Coal and health in the Hunter: Lessons from one valley for the world – is a report from the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) that aims to highlight the risks to health associated with the rapid expansion of coal mining in the Hunter Valley for the local population as well as the risk to the global community from the contribution to climate change from coal exports.

According to the report, international health and medical research has documented the contribution of coal to the development of heart and lung disease, including lung cancer, kidney disease, impacts on neurological development and, in relation to combustion, effects on reproductive health, as well as premature deaths.

In the Hunter Valley, health concerns associated with the rapid expansion of coal mining include:

  • declining air quality from coal dust and other air emissions
  • exposure to toxic gases from explosive blast plumes, transport and combustion
  • potential for water contamination
  • noise and light pollution from 24 hour mining operations
  • social disruption and destruction of communities as mining companies buy out houses, farms, and small villages
  • damage to fragile, remnant or threatened natural ecosystems
  • aesthetic impacts from changes to the landscape
  • health risks associated with global warming.

Health and Social Harms of Coal Mining in Local Communities: Spotlight on the Hunter Region.

October 2012

Beyond Zero Emissions commissioned a report to examine research about the health and social harms from mining activity for people living in communities near coal mines and coal-fired power stations, and to relate these issues to the Hunter region of NSW


Seeing through the dust: Coal in the Hunter Valley economy June 2014

The Australia Institute has published this report which seeks to contextualise the role the mining industry plays in the Hunter and NSW economy.  The claims of the mining industry are examined and shown not to be nearly so important as they first appear.  The report notes that while a large volume of coal is produce in the Hunter, it is clear that the industry is a modest contributor to employment, Hunter businesses and government revenues, While a major exporter, the industry is largely foreign owned and claims that the industry is ‘vital’ to the state are overstated.

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef will be a “dead ecosystem” in 20 years if Australia does nothing to address its greenhouse gas emissions’ according to the authors of a Climate Council report, quoted by SBS. The report goes on to say – ‘We have a clear and urgent choice. The future of coral reefs depends on how much and how fast we reduce greenhouse gas emissions now, and in the coming years and decades.’

Australia’s Coral Reefs under threat from climate change

Greg Hunt: no definite link between coal  from Adani mine and climate change  6 May 2016

The Guardian reports on the federal Environment Minister’s failure to consider the impact of coal from the proposed Adani mine and climate change. The Australian Conservation Foundation challenged Greg Hunt’s approval of Adani’s Carmichael mine in the federal court. Report has lots of links to interesting articles on the threats to the  GBR.

Coal and climate change: a death sentence for the Great Barrier Reef 20 May 2015

This article in The Conversation is the first in a series about the threats to the Great Barrier Reef. It warns of the potential consequences of rising sea water temperatures and the acidifying of oceans on one of the most complex ecosystems of the planet.

For more information on the threat to the Great Barrier Reef click here

Posted May 2016