Adani Mine Gets Final Nod From Queensland Government
Adani will begin work on its controversial Carmichael mine in central Queensland after passing its final environmental approval.
On Thursday afternoon, Queensland's environment department signed off on a plan to manage groundwater on and around the company's Galilee basin mine site.
"Construction can now begin," Adani said in a Tweet shortly after the announcement.
That's despite enduring concerns held by some water experts that the mine could kill off an ancient springs complex, and have dire effects on the health of the Carmichael River.
The decision comes after nearly nine years of planning and about a dozen versions of the groundwater management plan, of which past renditions have failed to avoid destroying nearby wetlands.
Traditional owners, with the support of the scientific community, have been rallying against the Indian mining giant to ensure the protection of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex -- one of the world's last unspoiled desert oases.
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Some water experts have warned the sacred springs, which are located near the edge of the mining lease, could permanently dry out if the mine proceeds.
Queensland's environment department said Adani's latest plan was "robust" and sufficiently established the main aquifer that feeds the springs.
However, the company was ordered to do further investigation into whether there are other aquifers which feed the springs, and ramp up water monitoring within the complex.
It must use a bore in a layer of claystone that separates the springs from the mine, which will act as an early warning trigger for dangerous water-level drops.
Mine opponents have reacted with fury, declaring the fight against the mine is not over.
Greens Senator for Queensland Larissa Waters accused the state Labor government of caving in to pressure from the coal lobby and donors.
She said there were "serious concerns from water experts, farmers and traditional owners about sucking water & ancient springs dry".
"Donors and politics trumped science, but the fight is not over!" she tweeted.
Tom Crothers, a former general manager for water allocation and planning in the Queensland government, accused Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of pressuring bureaucrats to approve the plan.
Palaszczuk stepped in last month, demanding approval deadlines be set, after Labor was thumped at the federal election in Queensland electorates that want Adani's jobs.
"Science has been thrown in the bin for political expediency," said Crothers, who worked in government for 35 years before leaving in 2011.
Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke and Keppel MP Brittany Lauga want Adani to now follow through on its promise to create thousands of jobs for regional Queenslanders including those living in their seats.
"It's now time for Adani to deliver the jobs that they promised for regional Queensland," Lauga said.
"I want Adani to comply with all of their environmental and social commitments and comply with all of the conditions of approval."
Other MPs say the decision has lifted a weight off the government's shoulders, and that the requirements laid out by the department will reassure farmers and graziers who had expressed fears over the mine's potential impact on water sources.
State Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the decision was made solely by her department, and cabinet members had nothing to do with it.
"Today's decision as per the environmental protection act, was not and could not be made by me, or anyone else in the cabinet. It has been made by the regulator and is backed by expert advice," she said.
Some water experts claim Adani has grossly underestimated the mine's impacts on groundwater, and fear the effects of its permit to pump water out of the mine to allow for the safe extraction of coal.
Hydrologists from four Australian universities issued a joint report earlier this week, saying Adani's water science was "severely flawed".
They warned the mine could seal the fate of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex, and the plant and animal species that rely on them.