Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday that coal is ‘good for humanity’ and world prosperity, sparking swift rebuke from critics who said his comments were alarming.

Abbott made the comments at the opening of the Caval Ridge coal mine, which is expected to produce 5.5 million tons of coal per year. It’s located in the northeast state of Queensland, which exported “a record 158.5 million tons [of coal] in the January-September period,” Reuters reports.  

“Let’s have no demonization of coal,” Abbott said on Monday. 

“Coal is good for humanity, coal is good for prosperity, coal is an essential part of our economic future, here in Australia, and right around the world,” he said.

It “is essential for the prosperity of the world,” he added. 

Underscoring his vision of a coal-producing future, he said, “Energy is what sustains our prosperity, and coal is the world’s principal energy source and it will be for many decades to come.”

The mine’s opening “is a good day for Queensland and it’s a great day for the world because this mine will keep so many people employed, it will keep so many businesses powered and it will make so many lives better and that’s what we celebrate today,” he said.

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