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Rinehart's Alpha coal mine approved

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BRISBANE, Aug 23 AAP

August 23 2012, 2:56PM

The federal government has approved Gina Rinehart's multi-billion dollar Alpha coal mine and its associated rail line in central Queensland.

The $6.4 billion GVK-Hancock Coal project slated for the Galilee Basin is co-owned by Indian company GVK and billionaire miner Ms Rinehart.

It involves a mine 40km northwest of Alpha, which lies between Emerald and Barcaldine, and a 495km rail line to Abbot Point, north of Bowen.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says the project was granted with 19 strict environmental conditions which would ensure the Great Barrier Reef was protected.

He says the process took three months longer than it should have because the Queensland government hadn't properly assessed the environmental risks when it approved the mine in May.

"I'm satisfied that we have now put in place the required additional conditions for the protection of the environment," Mr Burke said in a statement.

GVK said it was delighted with the decision.

"Ultimately, we believe the overall assessment process has resulted in best practice environmental protection outcomes," chairman GVK Reddy said.

The project will be the first coal mine in the resource-rich Galilee Basin and is expected to export 30 million tonnes of coal annually, worth about $3 billion.

Mr Burke said the company must take action to offset the impact on threatened species, and draw up plans to minimise stormwater and sediment runoff into the Burdekin Dam and the Great Barrier Reef, among other conditions.