The controversial Adani coal mine has been granted federal approval by Environment Minister Melissa Price. Price signed off on the Indian mining company’s groundwater management plans today under increasing pressure from Queensland colleagues, who wanted the project green-lit before the Government called the election—after which point they would have had to consult Labor before granting permission, Fairfax reports. The proposed mine, set to be located in the north of the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland, now just needs the approval of the Queensland Government to go ahead.
In a statement released today, Price said that “CSIRO and Geoscience Australia have independently assessed the groundwater management plans for the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Infrastructure project”, both of whom allegedly gave their approval after agreeing the plans met a series of strict scientific requirements. “Following this independent assessment and the Department of Environment and Energy’s recommendation for approval, I have accepted the scientific advice and therefore approved the groundwater management plans.”
Price also pointed out that today’s decision did not amount to final approval for the project, however. Of the 25 environmental plans associated with the project, only 16 have been finalised or approved by the Commonwealth and Queensland: meaning another nine will need approvals before mining can commence. Price stressed that the project “must meet further stringent conditions of approval from the Commonwealth before it can begin producing coal”.
Environmentalists have expressed serious concern over the proposed Adani mine, claiming it will damage aquifers in the Great Artesian Basin and threaten rivers and springs that depend on groundwater for their existence. Moreover, there are fears of water shortages for farmers and local communities, not to mention the mine's titanic reserves of carbon, which are now presumably to be released into the atmosphere.
It's previously been estimated by the Climate Council that if all coal in the Galilee Basin gets burned, it will release some 705 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, which is more than 1.3 times Australia’s current annual emissions without the mine.
Christian Slattery of the Australian Conservation Foundation criticised the Government’s decision and the way in which they appear to have bowed to pressure from Queensland Liberal National Party members. Just yesterday it was reported that Coalition senator James McGrath had threatened to publicly call for Ms Price to be sacked if she didn’t green-light the project.
“Coal-loving Coalition MPs appear to have strong-armed the Environment Minister into granting Adani access to Queensland’s precious groundwater on the eve of the election,” said Slattery, according to The Conversation. He also added that if Price was pressured to rush through the approval in the lead-up to the election, then it might be open to legal challenge.
Price, however, insisted that the Adani mine has faced careful and comprehensive scrutiny. "This project has been subject to the most rigorous approval process of any mining project in Australia," she said, as reported by the ABC. "This process reflects our commitment to ensuring robust environmental protection while balancing the needs of Australia's economy."
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