The billionaire drops the Australian coal mine’s appeal in blow for the sector

(Bloomberg) – Australia’s A$133 billion ($92 billion) coal export sector suffered another blow after billionaire Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal Inc. withdrew a call to open the country’s largest mine.

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Waratah will no longer appeal a landmark Queensland Land Court ruling in November that the project’s emissions threaten human rights, the Environmental Defenders Office, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, said, citing a Supreme Court case on Friday File filed by Queensland. Waratah Coal did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

The decision marks another setback for Australia’s coal sector, whose expansion plans have been stalled by a spate of litigation, environmental regulations, tax hikes, bad weather and capital outflows from climate-conscious investors and lenders. It comes after another major Palmer project, Central Queensland Coal, was blocked by the Environment Secretary last week over the risk of irreversible damage to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Galilee Coal Project aimed to produce 40 million tonnes of thermal coal per year, making it the largest in Australia, one of the world’s leading exporters of the fuel. It is one of dozens of proposed mines in Queensland’s vast Galilee Basin, of which only one has started production – Adani Group’s Carmichael.

Climate disputes are a fast-growing avenue for anti-fossil fuel groups around the world, with a number of high-profile cases reaching courts from the US to the Philippines in recent years. However, Australia has emerged as a hotbed of such litigation, with only the US registering more cases, according to data from Columbia University.

The November ruling blocking the Galilee coal project ruled that the carbon emissions released over its lifetime – about three times Australia’s total annual emissions – would affect the human rights of future generations in Queensland.

The reasoning in that ruling “could be applied to any mine” and is “probably very influential in future mine lease applications in the District Court,” Alison Rose, senior counsel at EDO, said by phone Monday.

Although the state government still has the power to issue the mine lease and environmental agency required for the project, it has historically followed the state courts’ recommendations, according to the EDO.

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