Adani cleared to start Carmichael coalmine work as groundwater plans approved

Guardian Web |

Adani has been cleared to start work on its Carmichael coalmine after the Queensland government approved the company’s plans for groundwater management.

Queensland’s coordinator general posted the decision on Thursday afternoon.

Approval of the groundwater plans follows intense pressure on the Queensland government after swings to the Liberal National party in Queensland at the federal election.

After Labor’s loss, Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, set deadlines for the two final-state approvals the mining company needed to begin preliminary construction at the mine site in the Galilee Basin.

The first was Adani’s management plan for the black-throated finch, which was approved at the end of May.

The second was its groundwater management plans, which received a rushed federal approval immediately before the election was called.

Adani will now be able to begin preliminary work, such as land-clearing and road access development at its mine site.

But it still requires other federal environmental approvals before it can begin extracting coal. Other aspects of the project, such as a royalties agreement, are also yet to be finalised.

The Morrison government gave Adani its groundwater approvals on the eve of the federal election.

Former environment minister Melissa Price signed off on the plans, despite concerns raised by the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.

The agencies’ review of the plans found that Adani’s groundwater models were “not suitable” to ensure the conditions of its environmental approvals were met and that it underestimated how much water the project would draw from the ancient Doongmabulla Springs complex and the Carmichael River.

Adani has been granted permission to re-run its groundwater models two years after mining commences.

It has also been asked to address some of the issues the CSIRO raised with its groundwater plans in two research plans associated with the Great Artesian Basin that the federal government still needs to assess.

A decision on those research plans will now fall to the new environment minister, Sussan Ley.

The Queensland government gave its sign-off after receiving advice on some aspects of the groundwater management plans from the CSIRO on 7 June.

But, in a win for environmentalists this week, the federal government conceded in a legal challenge related to another aspect of Adani’s project, its north Galilee water scheme.

The government approved the infrastructure project last year that would see a 100km-long pipeline constructed to transport 12.5bn litres of water a year from the Suttor River and Burdekin basin. The project would also expand an existing 2.2bn-litre dam to 10bn litres.

The Australian Conservation Foundation challenged the approval and on Wednesday succeeded in the case, with the government admitting it failed to properly consider public responses to the proposal and even lost some submissions.

Public consultation will be re-opened and Ley will have to reconsider the project, but the outcome won’t affect Adani’s ability to begin construction.

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