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Australia 'stops the clock' on huge coal mine

SYDNEY -- The Alpha Project in the northeastern Galilee Basin was given the green light last week by Queensland state authorities, who gave the federal government 30 days to approve it.

But federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said he would not give the go-ahead until environmental concerns relating to run-off from the mine impacting the Great Barrier Reef were properly addressed.

“I am today stopping the clock on the process which has been given to us by the Queensland government,” Burke said.

“The environmental asset at stake is known as the Great Barrier Reef.”

Burke said he was in constructive talks with GVK, which has an 80 percent holding in the project, and would be seeking more information from the Queensland government.

“I intend making a decision as soon as an informed decision can be made,” he said.

“I've given up on Queensland being sensible in respect to the Alpha Project.”

The federal Labor government is at loggerheads on the issue with Queensland, which recently elected a conservative government headed by Premier Campbell Newman.

The decision could affect the timeline for the mine which is expected to generate 3,600 jobs during construction and nearly 1,000 once in operation as it produces about 30 million metric tons of thermal coal annually.

Queensland hopes to see a boost of AU$1 billion per year to the state economy from the mine once it is operational as it develops the coal resources on its eastern coastline.

India is heavily dependent on coal for power generation and its companies are competing for global coal assets as they build power projects, steel and other plants to fuel the country's fast-growing economy.

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