Adani coalmine: minister loses legal challenge on water pipeline assessment | Environment


The federal government will have to reassess water infrastructure for Adani’s Carmichael coalmine after conceding in a legal challenge that was lodged with the federal court.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has succeeded in its appeal against the government’s assessment of Adani’s north Galilee water scheme, with the federal government admitting it failed to properly consider public responses to the proposal and even lost some submissions.

The new environment minister, Sussan Ley, will now have to reconsider the proposal, which 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 government will need to reopen the project for public comment.

While the decision is a win for the environment movement in its fight against the project, it will not prevent Adani from commencing preliminary construction at the mine site if it receives approval for its groundwater plans from the Queensland government on Thursday.

But the ACF said the government’s concession in the case is a demonstration it has not properly scrutinised Adani’s plans.

“Once again this case outcome shows the federal government failed to properly scrutinise Adani’s proposed Galilee Basin coalmine,” the ACF’s chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said.

“With this concession the government admitted it comprehensively failed to apply proper process when the former environment minister Melissa Price assessed Adani’s plans to take up to 12.5bn litres of water from the Suttor river in outback Queensland to service its mine.

“The government is fundamentally failing to properly apply national environment laws to its approvals for Adani’s mine and has been ignoring deep public concern about the mine’s environmental impact.”

The ACF lodged the appeal last year, challenging Price’s decision not to apply the water trigger in her assessment of the water scheme.

Through the proceedings it became evident that the process leading to the minister’s approval hadn’t properly considered the more than 2,200 public submissions that had been made, with some even being lost.

As a result, the ACF amended the grounds to challenge the failure to consider those submissions and the government conceded.

The government could still face further legal challenge if it reapproves the project without applying the water trigger in its reassessment.

“The water trigger is in Australian law because water is scarce on our dry continent. It should be applied to every relevant proposal, including Adani’s plan to take billions of litres of Queensland’s precious water,” O’Shanassy said.

“ACF will continue to scrutinise all decisions around Adani’s proposal, including groundwater approvals that were rushed through on the eve of the election.”

A spokesperson for Ley said the decision had no bearing on the federal approval for the Carmichael coalmine itself.

“Under any complex legislative system there is always some risk of legal challenge and a need to remake some decisions if there are potential legal concerns,” the spokesperson said.

“The department is reviewing its processes following this decision and will now again seek public comment on the North Galilee Basin Water Scheme referral, before proceeding to make a new decision in regard to whether further assessment of this project is required under the EPBC Act.”

In a statement, an Adani spokeswoman said the court had issued consent orders in relation to the case on Wednesday and the outcome came down to an “administrative error”.

“The orders related to advice from the Department of Environment and Energy that they have identified a potential record-keeping administrative error in relation to consideration of submissions made by the public for environmental assessment of the North Galilee Water Scheme project,” she said.

“The Department of Environment and Energy has subsequently, with the consent and agreement of all other parties, indicated to us that it was appropriate for the decision to be set aside and remitted to the Minister to remake the decision.

“Consequently we are engaging with the Department of Environment and Energy in relation to next steps.

“Importantly, the North Galilee Water Scheme is not required for us to commence construction of the Carmichael Mine and Rail Project.”

The outcome has some similarities to a 2015 challenge to Adani’s mine approval, which saw the then environment minister Greg Hunt’s decision to approve the mine set aside after he failed to consider advice about two threatened species, the yakka skink and the ornamental snake.

The mine was reapproved two months later.



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1 Comment on "Adani coalmine: minister loses legal challenge on water pipeline assessment | Environment"

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