MAC: Mines and Communities

Adani gets a final green light from Australia!

Published by MAC on 2019-06-13
Source: The Australian (2019-06-13)

But problems remain

The Adani mining extravaganza in Australia is about to officially commence.

This contemporary version of the Frankenstein myth might well challenge even the ability of a Mary Shelley to give it appropriate treatment.

As this monstrous project unfolds, there are not just questions about who's the real beast in the tale: company, politicians, investors or all three?.

Meanwhile, too, some key environmental challenges problems relating to Carmichael's infrastructure, remain unresolved.

Will the entire mine-railroad-port project actually materialise? - Or is it fated to descend into a morass ol civil society contention?

Today's equivalent of incensed 19th century axe-wielding, torch-brandishing, villagers (not least the Aboriginal folk fighting for their land) may yet save the day from inevitable climate disaster.

Mary Shelley can hopefully still rest easy in her grave - at least for a while.

Though doubtless, she'd regret that her character study of the maddest scientist known to western fiction will continue to be mistakenly associated, in the minds of many,  with the very, poor, doomed, and intrinsically blameless wretch (s)he created.

[Comment by Nostromo Research]

 

Adani gets green light with final approval

Sarah Elks

The Australian

13 June 2019

Adani could start building its controversial Carmichael coal mine
immediately after the Queensland government gave it the final
environmental approval, after months of delays.

The Indian conglomerate today confirmed the government had finally signed
off its groundwater management plan.

The decision comes more than two years after the company submitted its
first groundwater plan to Queensland’s Department of Environment and
Science, and nearly nine years after first applied to the state to build a
much larger version of the thermal coal mine, in central Queensland’s
Galilee Basin.

Adani has been pressing for the approvals from the department for months
with no result. But Labor’s poor showing in Queensland at the May 18
federal election sent shockwaves through the Palaszczuk government, with
the result partly blamed on the state’s stalling on Adani.

Four days later, Premier Anna­stacia Palaszczuk did an about-face. Ms
Palaszczuk said the federal election had been a “wake-up call,” declaring
she was “fed up” with her own government’s delays, and ordering Mr Broe to
set deadlines for Adani’s outstanding environmental approvals.

The department signed off on Adani’s strategy to protect the endangered
black-throated finch on May 31.

‘Getting on with the job’

Adani chief executive Lucas Dow said the company had 120 people working in
their office in Townsville and 120 onsite in the Galilee Basin who were
focused on “getting on with the job”.

Mr Dow told reporters in Brisbane that the company would continue with
preparatory works over the next few days before commencing construction.

“What’s going to happen over the next few days is we are undertaking
preparatory works, which includes site inductions, ensuring we have all of
our safety protocols in place and that we are going to meet all of our
environmental requirements, mobilising equipment to the site, finalising
contracts and agreements and continuing with recruitment activities,” he
said.

“Once those elements are done over the next few days, then you will see
construction activities commence over the next few weeks and those
activities will ramp up.”

The construction of the mine is expected to take two years, with exports
to begin within that time.

“From today, in two years time, people should be expecting we will export
our first piece of coal,” Mr Dow said.

The Carmichael mine has been subjected to criticism from detractors who
said it would not stack up financially but Mr Dow said the project was
economically viable and would be able to withstand the volatility of the
global coal market.

“Our project stands alone and is economically viable as an open cut
operation that’s what we put forward, that’s what the board approved,
that’s now what we are construction and that’s what we will develop and
build in the Galilee Basin,” he said.

“The reality is that every step of the way on the project we have ensured
it is economically robust throughout the pricing cycle.”

Mr Dow said the coal mining industry would be buoyed by Adani’s approval.

“We’ve been working on these approvals for over two years, so i think the
prospect or premise that these have been rushed through is a
misconception,” he said.

“Any project proponent, all they’re ever really seeking is certainty of
process and the timing.

“It’s given us confidence to be able to move forward and I’m sure the rest
of the sector will be enjoying that as well.”

Decision ‘backed by expert advice’

Today’s decision comes after the department sought advice from CSIRO and
Geoscience Australia on Adani’s groundwater strategy. The scientific
bodies raised concerns – which have not been detailed publicly – and Adani
was forced to rewrite its plan over the weekend.

But when CSIRO provided advice to the federal government about Adani’s
groundwater plans, the organisation said in April that “some issues” still
needed to be addressed, in particular, “confirming the source of the
ecologically-important Doongmabulla Springs”.

After the announcement, Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch told parliament
that the decision was “free from political interference”.

“Today’s decision…was not and could not be made by me, or anyone else in
the Cabinet, it has been made by the regulator, and backed by expert
advice,” Ms Enoch said.

Ms Enoch said the speed of the process had been criticised by some in the
community and the media, but she said the government was merely upholding
the rigorous state laws, and making decisions based on science.

“We do not apologise for that,” she said.

Ms Enoch said Adani’s finch plan was only approved by the department after
the company made “substantial improvements” to its strategy. And she said
the department only gave the twelfth version of the company’s groundwater
plan the green light after Adani agreed to “significant amendments”.

Ms Enoch said the government first required a groundwater plan in 2014,
but Adani did not submit its first version until 2016.

Adani Mining chief executive officer Lucas Dow said the approval of the
groundwater and finch protection plans meant the company could start
building the project.

“The finalisation of the GDEMP and Black-throated Finch Management Plan
paves the way for construction to commence on the Carmichael Project and
the delivery of much-needed jobs for regional Queenslanders,” Mr Dow said.

“Moving forward, our priority is ensuring the safety of everyone who works
on the project and that all construction activity meets the strict
environmental requirements we have agreed to meet in our management plans
and approvals.

“Over the coming days preparatory activities such as finalising contracts,
mobilising equipment, recruitment and completing inductions will continue.
These preparatory actions will enable us to then start construction
activities including fencing, bridge and road upgrades, water management
and civil earthworks on the mine site. The level of construction activity
will then steadily increase over the coming weeks.

“The project will deliver 1,500 direct and 6,750 indirect jobs during ramp
up and construction, with Rockhampton and Townsville the primary hubs for
employment. The Whitsunday, Isaac, Central Highlands, Mackay, Charters
Towers and Gladstone regions will also benefit from work packages and
employment opportunities.

The Australian reported this morning that Adani suffered a legal setback
last night, after a court found the federal Environment Department had
bungled its assessment of the miner’s unrelated offsite water
infrastructure plans.

Adani said the decision would not hinder its plans to begin construction
on the $2bn mine and rail project, if the state environment department
decided in its favour today.

Mr Broe has also set out a series of further deadlines for other project
milestones, such as a license to build and operate a rail line, for later
in the year. But those decisions are not required before construction can
begin.

Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science confirmed it had
approved Adani’s Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan,
revealing the company had submitted the most recent version of the
strategy yesterday. Crucially, the department said it was satisfied Adani
had identified the main source aquifer of the Doongmabulla Springs, which
the CSIRO has described as ecologically important.

“The GDEMP’s assessment has been rigorous and based on the best available
science,” a spokesman said today.

“DES and Adani have met regularly to ensure the plan is robust and
provides the maximum environmental protection.

“In assessing the plan, both Adani and DES took on board advice from CSIRO
and Geoscience Australia – the same advice considered by the Commonwealth
Government in approving an earlier version of the GDEMP in April this
year.”

“DES sought further clarification and advice from CSIRO and Geoscience
Australia, which it received on 7 June 2019.”

“Based on this advice, DES is satisfied that the GDEMP sufficiently
establishes the main source aquifer of the springs as the Clematis
Sandstone.”

“CSIRO and Geoscience Australia also confirmed that some level of
uncertainty in geological and groundwater conceptual models always
exists.”

Extra scientific work still needed

But the department has demanded extra scientific work be done by Adani
over the next two years before it can start underground mining on the
Carmichael site. Officials say box-cut mining can begin.

“This is required to identify any potential contribution from other
aquifers and strengthen the GDEMP,” the department spokesman said.

In a written statement, the department said the raft of additional
commitments from Adani included:

• Further work to improve the understanding of the source aquifers of
springs in the locality, particularly the Doongmabulla Springs Complex,
including:

- Undertaking detailed hydrogeochemical analysis of groundwater and spring
samples from different springs within each spring complex

- Undertaking isotopic analysis (including noble, radioactive gases and
strontium isotopes where isotopic analysis is not sufficient)

- Examining core samples from new bores to attain a better understanding
of hydraulic properties and provide detailed geological mapping

- Incorporating air-borne electro-magnetic modelling undertaken by
Geoscience Australia to improve hydrogeological understanding of the area.

• Using a bore in the Dunda Beds (also known as the Rewan Formation) as an
early warning trigger for groundwater drawdown monitoring in the
Carmichael River.

“Additional measures in the GDEMP also address concerns raised last week
by Flinders University scientists that the Permian aquifers should not be
ruled out as a Doongmabulla Springs Complex source,” the department
spokesman said.

“These include installing a new bore below the Rewan Formation, in the
vicinity of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex, to assist in determining if
the Permian aquifers (Colinlea) form a source for the springs.”

“Adani is also required to review hydrological, hydrochemistry analyses
and seismic information as part of its second geological and groundwater
remodelling after box cut mining starts, and review seismic information
pertaining underground mining impacts (which is scheduled to start in year
10 of the project). Further seismic studies may also need to be
undertaken.”

“Underground mining will not commence until these actions are completed
and only if predicted impacts are consistent with approved impacts.
Likewise, if the hydrogeological conceptualisation differs from that of
the approved project, approval must be sought prior to relevant impact
causing activities.”

“The GDEMP is the second of the two environmental management plans (the
other being the Black-Throated Finch Management Plan, approved on 31 May)
that needed to be approved before Adani could begin significant mining
activities at its Carmichael mine site.”

Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman - the sole representative of the
party in the Queensland parliament - warned today’s decision would not be
the end of the anti-Adani movement.

“Queensland Labor has approved Adani’s groundwater management plan,” Mr
Berkman said.

“But make no mistake: this is not the end. Labor’s internal meltdown and
capitulation to coal billionaires won’t make an entire movement of people
disappear...we’re just getting started.”

 

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