Mumbai: The new Australian government has reapproved Indian infrastructure conglomerate Adani Group’s $12 billion Carmichael coal mine and rail project in accordance with environment laws, subject to 36 conditions.

Australian environment minister Greg Hunt said the approval is subject to “36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history".

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 this controversial coal mine with a yield of 60 million tonnes per annum and a 189km railway line.

The approval is based on the protection and improvement of 31,000 hectares of the southern black-throated finch’s habitat.

This will also require $1 million in funding for research programmes to improve conservation of the threatened species in Australia’s Galilee Basin.

The minister has also asked for the protection of the Doongmabulla Springs wetlands through strict monitoring of ground water.

“The rigorous conditions will protect threatened species and provide long-term benefits for the environment through the development of an offset package. These measures must be approved by myself before mining can start," Hunt said in a statement.

“I have the power to suspend or revoke the approval and strict penalties apply if there is a breach of the strict conditions. The department of environment’s compliance and enforcement officers will closely monitor the operation of the mine," Hunt said.

The Australian environment department said the latest approval was given after responding to advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC), with further and strengthened conditions.

“The previous decision to approve the project was set aside at the request of the Australian government in August 2015 as a precautionary measure. This was due to the possibility that the advice on the approval decision had not been provided in a particular manner, which may have affected the validity of the decision," the department said.

In making the decision, the environment minister has considered all relevant new information, as well as the previous assessment of the project. Also, additional material was provided by the Adani Group, the Mackay Conservation Group, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the environmental defenders office, Birdlife Australia and the Black-throated Finch Recovery Team, the environment ministry website said.

However, these measures must be detailed in a Biodiversity Offset Strategy that must be approved by the environment minister before mining can start.

“At a minimum, this must include protection of 31,000 hectares of black-throated finch habitat, 135 hectares of ornamental snake habitat and 5,600 hectares of yakka skink habitat," it said.

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, had sought urgent intervention of the UN 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.

The minister said the August decision was taken as a precautionary measure, adding that “this was due to the possibility that the advice on the approval decision had not been provided in a particular manner which may have affected the validity of the decision".

Hunt added that he had remade the approval decision for Adani Mining Pty Ltd’s North Galilee Basin rail project with 23 strict conditions, as a precautionary measure to provide investment certainty.

The Carmichael mine is slated to be among the largest coal mines in the world.

Over 10 international banks, including Adani’s former chief financier for Carmichael, Standard Chartered, and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, have withdrawn from the project.

The latest re-issuance of permit to the Adani Group has stirred outrage among environment conservationists.

Hunt’s approval sets back global efforts to combat climate change, ACF said on Thursday.

“To approve a massive coal mine that would make species extinct, deplete 297 billion litres of precious ground water and produce 128.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year is grossly irresponsible," said ACF president Geoff Cousins.

“At a time when the world is desperately seeking cleaner energy options, this huge new coal mine will make the effort to combat climate change all the more difficult," he added.

Cousins cautioned that if it goes ahead, the Carmichael mine would be the largest ever dug in Australia and it would take up five times the area of Sydney harbour.

Hunt’s reapproval of the Carmichael coal mine flies in the face of rising public opposition to the proposal and scientific evidence that shows the mine would destroy 10,000 hectares of habitat for endangered species, including the largest known population of the southern black-throated finch, Cousins said.

“ACF will scrutinize this approval decision and carefully consider options. We will use all appropriate means to stop this mine," Cousins said.

In an emailed statement, Adani Australia welcomed Thursday’s announcement by the minister for the environment on the approval of the Carmichael mine and North Galilee Basin Rail (NGBR).

“The Carmichael Mine and NGBR lie at the heart of Adani’s plans to build a long-term future with Queensland," the statement said.

In early August, the approval granted by the minister in July 2014 was partially set aside, following orders of the federal court to address a legal technicality in the approval process arising from a technical error on the part of the environment department.

Adani noted at the time that the company was confident of the soundness of the broader approvals, that the species involved had been protected by conditions, and that the technical error would be promptly rectified.

“Today’s announcement of the final federal approval for the Carmichael Mine and North Galilee Basin Rail by minister Hunt makes clear that these concerns have been addressed, reflected in rigorous and painstaking conditions," it said.

“It is certainty over the remaining approvals that is now key to the company progressing its plan to deliver mine, rail and port projects in Queensland that will deliver 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, and $22 billion in taxes and royalties to be reinvested back into community services," Adani Australia said.

Adani added that it is looking forward to the remaining government approvals and decision processes being dealt with promptly to ensure these job-creating projects get back on track, so the much-needed economic benefits of the project can commence.

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