MAC: Mines and Communities

Adani's key water management plan is flawed and used some unverified data

Published by MAC on 2018-12-22
Source: ABC

Adani's key water management plan is flawed and used some unverified data, CSIRO says

Exclusive by Mark Willacy for ABC Investigations

The CSIRO has found serious flaws in Adani's key water management plan to protect an ancient springs complex near its proposed Carmichael coal mine, threatening to further delay the controversial project.

Key points:

The ABC can reveal Australia's peak scientific body has raised concerns about Adani's Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan (GDEMP), which is designed to minimise impacts on ecosystems including the nationally important Doongmabulla Springs.

The Federal Department of Environment and Energy asked the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia for an independent scientific review of Adani's GDEMP.

The ABC understands one of the CSIROS's key concerns is the level of groundwater draw-down that could be caused at the springs by the mine's operations.

Conservationists and some scientists warn the springs could permanently dry up under Adani's plan to drain billions of litres of groundwater a year for its proposed mine.

The source of the ancient springs remains in doubt.

Two Federal Government groundwater studies, conducted since Adani received Commonwealth environmental approval in 2014, were unable to identify which of two underground aquifers feeds the threatened ecosystem.

The GDEMP is a requirement of the Federal Government's final approval and also needs to be ticked off by the Queensland Government.

Adani's GDEMP has been found to lack detail by the CSIRO

Other concerns include the possible groundwater impacts from Adani's water bores at the mine site.

The CSIRO also found that some of the data used by Adani in its plan was not verified.

The CSIRO has told the federal environment department that Adani needs to do more work on its GDEMP and to verify its data.

The ABC understands Queensland's Department of Environment and Science (DES) wrote to Adani last week saying it will not look at the company's GDEMP again until the concerns raised by the CSIRO are resolved.

In August the ABC revealed the mining giant's most recent draft plan to protect the Doongmabulla Spring failed to address regulator demands to protect the oasis.

"The GDEMP needs to identify the source aquifer of the Doongmabulla Spring Complex and mitigation measures to protect the springs," the DES told the ABC in statement.

"Preliminary advice from CSIRO requires Adani to update the plan.

"Two environmental plans still need to be approved before significant disturbance can commence at the Carmichael Coal Mine.

"These plans are the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan and a Black Throated Finch Management Plan.

"The Queensland Government has been clear that the [mine] project must stack up on its own merits, both financially and environmentally."

Last month Adani announced construction would begin on the Carmichael mine, with company chief executive Lucas Dow saying the project would be "100 per cent financed" from within the Adani conglomerate.

But the mine would be significantly scaled back, with production expected to peak at 28 million tonnes compared to the projected 60 million tonnes under the original plan.

Adani told the ABC that it welcomed the review from the CSIRO.

"Receiving feedback on management plans and working through that with regulators is a normal part of the approvals process for any resources project," an Adani spokesperson said in a statement.

"We have been assisting with and welcomed a review by the CSIRO as we are committed to working transparently and to the same standards that are in place for other Australian mines.

"In fact, Adani's Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Management Plan has been through 10 rounds of assessments with the Australian and Queensland Governments over two years."

Qld Labor exempts Adani mine from public submission and appeals on groundwater

9 November 2016

The Queensland Labor government last night passed the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (EPOLA Bill) and Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (WLA Bill).

“The Queensland Parliament has passed last minute amendments to the Labor Government’s groundwater protection laws. The effect is that the public, be they conservation groups or local landholders, won’t have any submission or appeal rights on groundwater licences relating to the Adani Carmichael mine,” said Jo Bragg, CEO of Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) Queensland.

Adani will still be required to obtain an associated water licence, introduced through the EPOLA Bill. However, an exemption has been explicitly carved out for Adani which removes the public and the Court’s power to undertake normal scrutiny of this licence.

Other mining proposals, such as New Acland Stage 3, Alpha and Kevin’s Corner coal mines will be required to obtain associated water licences that will be subject to normal public submission and appeal rights.

A new provision was also inserted to ensure that the Director-General of the DNRM must consult with the Director-General of DEHP when deciding whether to approve an associated water licence.

Minister Miles stated in his second reading speech that the Director-General of DEHP would be guided by an expert panel in this consideration. This provides a small consolation against the loss of proper public scrutiny of groundwater impacts proposed by the massive Carmichael mine.

“The EPOLA Bill as originally tabled by the State government was intended to improve groundwater assessment and stop Newman-era changes that removed licensing requirements for mines from taking effect,” said Ms Bragg.

“So it’s gravely concerning that on the most controversial proposed coal mine in Australia, the ALP government has now moved amendments which remove the check and balance of public submissions and appeals relating to groundwater impacts.

“It is a myth that the EPOLA Bill would cause unfair delays to miners stemming from its new requirements. For many years mines have needed water licences, subject to public appeal, to utilise groundwater under the Water Act in Queensland.

“What we know for certain around water management is that we do not properly understand how our groundwater basins operate. Rigorous assessment of proposed impacts is essential.

“We are at least gladdened to see that the strengthened groundwater impact assessment for environmental authorities has been passed in EPOLA for future mining, petroleum and gas projects.

“Also, it is good news that the WLA Bill was passed, which reintroduces the principles of ecologically sustainable development into water licence and allocation decision making, removes the risky water development option, and removes the ability to deregulate watercourses.

“It is, however, unfortunate that the government did not consider that associated water licences should also be subject to principles of ESD in their assessment, when they will apply to every other water licence and allocation.

“We have had some small concessions for those farmers, other landholders and the environments dependent on our groundwater systems. The government and those politicians who value protection of agriculture and the environment over private for profit mining companies should not support this last minute amendment in favor of poor, rushed assessment for Adani.”

For more information, check out our handy explainer, “Water reforms passed – exemption from public scrutiny for Adani and retrospective dewatering approval demonstrate regulatory capture by mining industry.”

Contact James Lorenz, 0400 376 021



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