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As the deadline for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 under the Paris Agreement approaches, the Labor Albanese-led Government has generated controversy by granting an extension to the Gregory Crinum coal mine located in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.

The mine is operated by Sojitz Blue, a subsidiary of Japan-based Sojitz Corporation.

While the initial approval is for 20 years, the mine’s extension spans 50 years until 2073.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek granted the extension for the coal mine under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC), Australia’s primary national environmental law.

This decision sparked outrage from various quarters, including Australia’s Climate Media Centre, the Climate Council, and the Australian Greens Party, all of which argued these approvals would hinder progress towards emissions reduction targets.

“Tanya Plibersek has just approved a new coal project that will run until 2073 when we’re meant to be reaching net zero…” Australian Greens Leader Adam Bandt said.

“That’s another 50 years of coal when the science tells us we can’t open any new coal or gas mines.”

Minister Plibersek responded to these accusations by clarifying that while the mine’s tenure extends until 2073, it will only operate for a 20-year period and will be used for metallurgical coal to produce steel.

“The Albanese Government has to make decisions in accordance with the facts and the national environmental law – that’s what happens on every project, and that’s what has happened here,” she said.

“I am the first environment minister in history to stop a coal mine, and I’ve cancelled two others…we’re committed to supporting a global transition to renewables – it’s cheaper and cleaner.”

Minister Plibersek also pointed out that her Government has doubled the rate of renewable energy approvals since her tenure in parliament and emphasised the importance of green metals.

“Under the safeguard mechanism, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy manages how the carbon pollution of this project is consistent with Australia’s transition to net zero,” she said.

This decision follows a series of approvals, including the Isaac River coal mine, the Star coal mine, and the Ensham coal mine.

Last week’s emissions update showed that fossil fuel emissions are continuing to rise.

Despite this data, Minister Plibersek confirmed that the mine would adhere to safeguard mechanisms and produce 104,404 greenhouse gas emissions to meet the annual scope one emission target of 100,000 tonnes for a financial year.

The decision to proceed with the mine extension comes at a critical juncture in the energy security debate, with some discussions surrounding the potential use of nuclear energy as a solution.

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