The Murray-Darwin Basin is Australia’s biggest energy project and the country’s largest new source of coal.
The Murray Dam is the largest in the world and is part of the nation’s electricity infrastructure.
The project, which will see the construction of the Murray-Davidson line and an electricity export terminal, is due to be completed by 2020.
But as a result of the Great Northern power station closure in 2015, many of the thousands of jobs and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Australians depend on the coal project.
“We have seen a decline in the coal industry in Australia and it’s a real shame,” said Nick Toth, who is managing director of the Australian Coal Association (ACA).
“There are thousands of people who rely on this industry and the industry will go to the brink of collapse without it.”
Toth said the closure of the power station was one of the biggest jobs losses in Australia’s history and it could affect the construction sector in Australia.
“[There’s] a lot of people going to the other side of the world to get the jobs,” he said.
Workers have been told to prepare for up to 30,000 jobs to be lost in the Murray River Valley alone, with the mine itself expected to lose hundreds of millions of dollars.
In a statement to News.co.au, a spokesperson for the ACT Government said: “This Government has been clear that coal is an essential energy source for the Australian economy.
It is vital that all the coal fired power stations in Australia are operating safely and are operating in compliance with the Australian Government’s obligations under the Climate Change Act.”
But the ABC understands the Murray Dam project has not yet been approved by the ACT’s Nuclear Regulation Authority.
ACT Energy says the dam’s closure is not the reason the project has been put on hold.
But that has not stopped a range of politicians from pushing for the project to go ahead.
Senator Nick Xenophon, who chairs the Federal Parliament’s Energy and Resources Committee, has called for the coal plant to be built.
Earlier this month, Senator Xenophon urged his fellow parliamentarians to support the project, saying the dam had to be done.
A number of Australian states have also been called into session in recent months to debate the future of the dam, with Queensland Minister of State for Resources, Energy and Northern Infrastructure Tim Carmody calling for the dam to be reopened.
Labor has also been pushing for a decision on the project’s future, with former NSW premier Mike Baird warning it was “probably going to go down in history as one of Australia’s worst blunders”.
Senator Xenophon told the ABC that the dam should be allowed to fail, because the “economic costs would be immense” if it failed.
ABC News’ David Condon, John Pym, David Tompkins, Kate McNeil and James Purdon contributed to this story.
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