The Adani Group may face fresh trouble in Australia as an environment activist group on Monday challenged in a federal court an approval given to the Indian company to excavate coal from the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.
The Adani Group, however, said it is confident in the soundness of the government’s approval of the mine, and said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s (ACF) move was politically motivated.
On 15 October, the new Australian government re-approved the Adani Group’s coal mine and rail project in accordance with the country’s environment laws, subject to 36 conditions. Australia’s environment minister Greg Hunt had said then that the approval is subject to “36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history".
The ACF said it will argue that the minister failed to consider whether the impact of climate pollution, resulting from burning the mine’s coal, would be inconsistent with Australia’s international obligations to protect the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.
“Coral reef scientists are telling us in just a few decades, warmer waters could bleach the Reef beyond recognition. This would be a tragedy for Australia and the world. Minister Hunt has acknowledged climate change is affecting the Great Barrier Reef, yet the approval of the Carmichael mine will create more pollution, make global warming worse and irreversibly damage the Reef," the ACF said.
The Carmichael coal mine and rail project is an open-cut and underground coal mine located approximately 300km inland in remote central Queensland in Australia.
Adani Mining Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Adani Group, is developing the controversy-ridden coal mine expected to yield 60 million tonnes per annum and a 189km railway line.
The approval on 15 October was based on the protection and improvement of 31,000 hectares of the southern black-throated finch’s habitat.
The Adani Group initiated the Carmichael coal project in 2010 with plans to develop a coal mine and a rail link with Abbot Point port, but the project soon ran into opposition from environmentalists.
Australia’s indigenous people Wangan and Jagalingou, traditional owners of the land that was earmarked to host the $12 billion mining project, sought urgent intervention of the United Nations to stop the proposed development of the massive coal mine.
In August, overturning environmental permission for the mine, the federal court of Australia said environment minister Hunt had “ignored his own department’s advice about the mine’s impact on two vulnerable species, the yakka skink and the ornamental snake". The yakka skink is a lizard seen mostly in Queensland.
“Ultimately this is a battle between overseas resource companies who wish to make vast profits from mining and those who wish to see the Great Barrier Reef protected for the entire community," another environment activist group Mackay Conservation Group said on Monday.
The Mackay Conservation Group has not yet made any announcement on whether it will also appeal against the most recent approval of the Carmichael mine.
However, the Adani Group was quick to respond.
“Today’s announcement by ACF is the latest in a litany of attempts by politically motivated activists seeking to endlessly delay new, job-creating projects in Queensland. Adani has consistently said that what is required for major job-creating resource projects to proceed in this state and in Australia more broadly is regulatory and approvals certainty," Adani Australia said in a statement.
“It is one thing for a project’s approval to be challenged. It is quite another to wait for previous challenges to fail, then launch new ones on different grounds over and over again, seeking endless delay, and endlessly abusing process," it said.
Adani Australia claimed that the mine project will deliver 10,000 direct and indirect jobs and $22 billion in taxes and royalties to this state.