Adani has passed its final environmental approval and can now begin work on its Carmichael mine in Central Queensland after nearly nine years of planning, fierce protests and endless political debate.
Queensland’s Environment Department this afternoon approved the mine’s groundwater management plan, with construction at the Galilee Basin to ramp up over the coming weeks.
Over the past 18 months Adani had produced about a dozen versions of its groundwater management plan. Previous attempts failed to meet key environmental requirements, including a plan to avoid destroying one of the world’s last unspoiled desert oases, the Doongmabulla Springs Complex.
It was ordered to identify the source of the springs and today the Environment Department said Adani had sufficiently established that Clematis Sandstone was the main source aquifer.
However, the miner was ordered to do further investigation and install a new bore to rule out whether the Permian aquifers (Colinlea) was also a source.
It will also be required to do further work over the next two years to identify any other potential source, by using detailed hydrogeochemical analysis of groundwater from different springs, isotopic analysis, air sampling and examinations of core samples from new bores.
The Department said while box cut mining can begin at the site, underground mining will not commence until the further testing is completed.
The Department said it sought advice from CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, which it received last week, and decided to approve the plan in its current form.
“CSIRO and Geoscience Australia also confirmed that some level of uncertainty in geological and groundwater conceptual models always exists,” the Department said in a statement.
Miner ‘ready to start work’
Adani Australia chief executive Lucas Dow said the company was ready to start work.
“Over the coming days preparatory activities such as finalising contracts, mobilising equipment, recruitment and completing inductions will continue,” he said.
Graphic map showing location of Adani’s proposed Carmichael Coal Mine in central Queensland with a rail line connecting to the Aurizon Network that then travels to the Abbot Point terminal near Bowen in north Queensland.
“These preparatory actions will enable us to then start construction activities, including fencing, bridge and road upgrades, water management and civil earthworks on the mine site.
“The level of construction activity will then steadily increase over the coming weeks.”
Mr Dow said the mine would need about 1,500 employees, and was expected to create 6,750 indirect jobs in the region.
Minister unapologetic over approval time
Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch told Parliament the plan was approved after significant amendments and the commitment to continue further monitoring.
“At times the robustness of the process has attracted criticism from those in the media and the community who would have liked a quicker decision,” she said.
“And, it has been derided by the LNP here in Queensland who have appeared to be keen to see all environmental processes abandoned.
“But the people of Queensland have a right to expect that the Government takes a responsible approach to environmental protection, upholds the law and supports decisions based on the best available science.
“Our state has some of the most rigorous environmental protections in the country and we do not apologise for that.”
First mining basin opened up in five decades
The Carmichael mine is the first to gain approval for the Galilee Basin, another six are proposed for the region.
Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the approval was made only because Queensland’s Labor Government politicians feared they would lose their seats.
“It has been more than 50 years since a new coal basin has opened in Queensland, so this development is of huge importance to the economic future of Queensland,” he said.
“Adani is the biggest commercial investment from an Indian company in Australia. Hopefully there will now be many more investments to come.”
Approval comes after frustrated Premier set deadline
After Labor’s poor results at the federal election, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk last month said she was “fed up” with both the federal and state delays for the Indian miner and gave her Environment Department the new deadlines.
Today’s approval comes almost a fortnight after the Department granted approval for the mine’s conservation plan for the endangered black-throated finch.
Stage 1 construction is underway, but today’s approval means the miner can now start significant work. (Twitter: Matthew Canavan)
While today’s decision gives Adani the green light, designs for its railway line to get coal to the Abbot Point terminal, north of Bowen, are yet to be finalised.
It has approvals to produce up to 60 million tonnes of thermal coal every year but at this stage is only planning to produce about 27.5 million tonnes.
Late yesterday the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) won a Federal Court appeal, which found the Commonwealth had not properly assessed about 2,000 public submissions on Adani’s plans to use river water.
But the ACF conceded that the decision was unlikely to further delay the controversial project given today’s “green light”.