Galilee Basin Map

The Galilee Basin

The Galilee Basin is a 247,000 square kilometre thermal coal basin in the central region of the Australian state of Queensland. It is one of the largest untapped coal reserves on the planet.

There are currently nine coal mega-mines proposed for the Galilee Basin1, which together make it the second biggest fossil fuel expansion proposed anywhere in the world (after Western China)2.

At full production, the proposed Galilee Basin projects would double Australia’s coal exports to over 600 million tonnes a year.  If the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the burning of Galilee Basin coal were compared to fossil fuel emissions from other countries, the Galilee Basin would rank as the world’s seventh biggest contributor of  CO2 pollution3. The development of the Galilee Basin is the driver for the proposed expansion of coal ports along the Great Barrier Reef coast, which is causing international concern.

It is estimated that the coal complex in the Galilee would consume 2007 billion litres (or gigalitres) of water over the life of the mines, dramatically dropping the regional water table and reducing groundwater resources in one of the driest continents on the planet4. The mines would also destroy several high conservation value areas, including the Bimblebox Nature Refuge and habitat for endangered species such as the Black Throated Finch5.

It is approximately 400km from the coast, with no existing rail line and little existing water, power and service infrastructure6. A new railway is proposed to run across floodplains and agricultural land to the coast, and is opposed by landholders. Indian companies Adani and GVK, proponents of the Carmichael and Alpha coal mines – two of the largest mines proposed for the Galilee – plan to develop one of the biggest coal export terminals in the world at Abbot Point, on the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef’s coastline7.

Adani Enterprises Ltd and its subsidiaries have a demonstrated track record of breaching environmental conditions and disruption of traditional communities near its coal port in Mundra, India,8 that country’s largest private port. Questions have also been raised about the ownership structure and legality of its purchase of Abbot Point9 and the legitimacy of its status as a Suitable Registered Operator for the Carmichael project.10 Appalling labour practices have also been exposed in the media.11

By the calculation of the International Energy Agency, if you loaded all the Galilee’s coal onto a single train, it would be 2.5 million kilometres long, or six-and-a-half times the distance to the moon. Read more.

Galilee vista

A view across the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland.

The state and federal governments are supportive of the proposed development of coal projects in the Galilee Basin. There is strong opposition to the proposed coal projects from local farmers, indigenous traditional owners, environmentalists and the broader community concerned about the potential impact on water resources, climate, threatened species and the Great Barrier Reef. A number of the proposed coal projects are currently being challenged in the courts.

The financial viability of developing coal-for-export in the Galilee Basin has been questioned by analysts12, due to the low global coal price and large up-front costs of constructing greenfield coal mines13.  The mine proponents insist the economics stack up.

Alpha Coal test pit

The Alpha Coal test pit is the first coal mine in the Galilee Basin.

The development of coal export terminals on the Great Barrier Reef for Galilee Basin coal has been particularly opposed by tourism operators who fear the destruction of the $6bn per annum tourism industry and by fishers, scientists and conservationists. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has expressed concern about the industrialisation of the Reef. Many of the world’s biggest banks, including Morgan Stanley, Citibank and Deutsche Bank, have pledged not to fund the development of coal export terminals on the Reef.

This website has been created to compile information on the Galilee Basin coal projects for the use of the general public and the media in Australia and internationally.

  1. Cooking the Climate – Wrecking the Reef, Greenpeace Australia 

  2. Point of No Return, Greenpeace Australia 

  3. Cooking the Climate – Wrecking the Reef, Greenpeace Australia 

  4. Draining the Lifeblood, Lock the Gate Alliance 

  5. Bimblebox Nature Refuge 

  6. Stranded: Alpha Coal project in Australia’s Galilee Basin, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis 

  7. Abbot Point, North Queensland Bulk Ports 

  8. Report raises concerns about Adani’s authority to operate, Environmental Justice Australia 

  9. Uncertainty over massive Queensland mine after election shock and concerns over Indian company 

  10. Report raises concerns about Adani’s authority to operate, Environmental Justice Australia 

  11. Concerns at Barrier Reef Contractors humanitarian, environment record, Sydney Morning Herald 

  12. The Curious case of Galilee Basin Coal, Crikey 

  13. Analysts highlight major investment risk, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis