MAC: Mines and Communities

Coal-addicted Adani reckons it's in - at a finch!

Published by MAC on 2019-06-01

For recent relevant posting, please see: The fix is in! 

 

 

Adani confident of green light after finch protection plan approved

Sarah Elks

Queensland Political Reporter

The Australian

May 31 2019

Adani is confident of getting the last state approval it needs for the
construction of its Queensland coal mine, with a company chief declaring
“we should be away in weeks”.

Adani cleared one of the major hurdles for its controversial Carmichael
coal mine proposal, after the Queensland environment department approved
its black-throated finch management plan.

The state’s Coordinator-General Barry Broe confirmed the Queensland
Department of Environment and Science had given the green light to Adani’s
strategy to protect the endangered bird on its central Queensland mine
site.

The first iteration of Adani’s finch management plan — which includes a
commitment to create a 33,000ha conservation area on a cattle station
owned by the company — was submitted to the state and federal governments
in May 2017.

Adani is now waiting for one more approval from the department, for its
groundwater management plan. The department will make a decision by June
13, but is waiting for advice from the CSIRO and Geosciences Australia.

Liberal National Party Opposition leader Deb Frecklington used the
approval of the finch plan to attack the Palaszczuk Labor government.

“Annastacia Palaszczuk’s bitterly divided government has done all it can
to stop new mines and destroy jobs in the resources industry but I am glad
common sense is prevailing in this case,” Ms Frecklington said.

“Adani has cleared every major environmental hurdle for the past eight
years and finally there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Make no mistake, this is bigger than just the Adani project. The
Palaszczuk Labor Government’s anti-regions, anti-jobs and anti-resources
agenda will continue to hurt Queensland.”

The green movement reacted angrily to the decision, warning Adani’s
Galilee Basin mine would “devastate critical habitat for this endangered
bird”.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Christian Slattery said the
finch had already lost 88 per cent of its historical range.

“The area where Adani wants to dig the Carmichael mine is home to the
largest known population of black-throated finches and some of the best
remaining habitat,” Mr Slattery said.

“The black-throated finch is already endangered and this decision by the
Queensland government, which comes after months of pressure and coercion
by Adani and the mining lobby, might have sealed its fate.”

Adani Australia chief executive Lucas Dow expressed optimism about an
imminent resumption of construction work.

He said the company was already working with contractors and suppliers to
hit the ground running, should the department also sign off on the
groundwater plan. “Ultimately, all things boding well, we should be away
in weeks,” he told reporters.

He said Adani modified its finch management plan to incorporate
departmental demands, even though it didn’t think some of them were really
necessary to protect the species.

“Whilst we didn’t believe they were required in terms of meeting our
obligations, in the interests of finalising the plan we incorporated
elements that included, for example, changing the grazing density,
adjusting some of the population survey methodologies and some of the
research plans.”

Mr Dow did not answer when repeatedly asked how many of the birds live on
the mine site, which covers a large swathe of its best remaining habitat.
But he said Adani had agreed to conduct population studies and implement
monitoring systems to track how the species is doing over time. Mr Dow
also sought to explain why fewer jobs are now on the cards from the mine,
citing Adani’s decision to downsize the project.

“We’ll see 1500 jobs created on the rail and mine project and a further
6750 indirect jobs. We’re talking about 8250 jobs created through the
ramp-up and construction of the project that currently don’t exist in
Queensland.”

Adani has been pressing for the approvals from the department for months
and last week Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk finally gave in to demands
that she intervene, ordering high-level talks between the company, the
department and the state’s Co-­ordinator-General.

Ms Palaszczuk had said federal Labor’s drubbing in regional Queensland at
the recent election — partly blamed on the state government’s stalling on
Adani and an internal revolt by her regional MPs — delivered a “wake-up
call” and prompted her to declare she was “fed up” with her own
department’s processes.

If the Indian mining conglomerate gets the June 13 green light, it says it
will immediately begin construction on its $2bn coal mine and rail project
in the nascent Galilee Basin, in central Queensland.

Mr Broe has also set out a series of deadlines for other project
milestones, such as a license to build and operate a rail line, for later
in the year.

A spokesman for Queensland’s environment department said the Carmichael
mine site was Australia’s most significant population of the endangered
black-throated finch. The department approved the plan after Adani made
extra concessions to protect the finch, the spokesman said.

“Assessment of this plan has been a rigorous process, informed by the best
available science,” the spokesman said.

“DES has met regularly with Adani to ensure that the plan is robust and is
well-placed to deliver the best outcomes for the protection of the
black-throated finch.

“This process has included an independent expert panel review of a
previous version of the plan submitted in December 2018.”

“The additional undertakings that Adani has committed to have strengthened
the plan and are important to protect this endangered species.

The department said Adani had agreed to:

• Establish enhanced understanding of the black-throated finch in the
project area, including undertaking appropriate population studies,

• Establish appropriate monitoring protocols that will allow for an
analysis of the black-throated finch population in the project area over
time, and

• Manage the Ten Mile Bore area and surrounds in a manner that protects
the black-throated finch, including a commitment to a low-grazing regime
in that area.

The department also said it was satisfied Adani would employ properly
qualified ecologists to conduct the surveys and ongoing monitoring of the
finch.

Additional reporting: AAP

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