Legal setback for Adani on eve of mine sign-offPublished by MAC on 2019-06-13
Source: The Australian (2019-06-13)
For accompanying article, see Adani gets green light
Legal setback for Adani on eve of mine sign-off
13 June 2019
Adani has been hit with another setback on the eve of the Queensland government’s decision on whether to green light construction of the Carmichael mine after the federal Environment Department bungled the assessment of its offsite water infrastructure plans.
Construction of the controversial mine could still start within days if Queensland authorities today approve Adani’s groundwater management plan — the final regulatory hurdle before building can commence.
Late yesterday, the federal department admitted in the Federal Court that it could not prove it had considered all of the 2200 public submissions — and had since lost some — regarding Adani’s unrelated plans to build a 110km pipeline to the Suttor River to access up to 12.5 billion litres of floodwater a year.
The administrative error, revealed after a legal challenge by the Australian Conservation Foundation, will force the commonwealth to reopen Adani’s plans to public comment and reassess its ruling that the project did not need to be assessed on its impacts to water resources.
An Adani spokeswoman said yesterday the decision would not stall construction of the mine and rail project if the Queensland government ticked off on the separate groundwater management plan today.
“Importantly, the North Galilee water scheme is not required for us to commence construction of the Carmichael mine and rail project,” the spokeswoman said.
Adani already has approval to harvest 12.5 billion litres of floodwater from the Suttor River, granted under a separate environmental impact assessment for the mine itself, that is not directly impacted by the court decision.
The ACF, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office Queensland, applied to the Federal Court for a judicial review in December after the then environment minister Melissa Price, on advice from a delegate, ruled that the pipeline did not constitute coalmining activity and did not need to be assessed for its impact on water resources.
The matter was set down for a hearing next week but abruptly came to an end yesterday when the Department of Environment and Energy failed to demonstrate it had considered all of the public responses, as required by law.
The department, Adani and the ACF agreed for the minister’s decision to be set aside and the decision-making process to start from scratch. “The government is fundamentally failing to properly apply national environment laws to its approvals for Adani’s mine and has been ignoring deep public concern about the mine’s environmental impact,” ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said.
“The proposal must now go to the new Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, and be reopened for public comment.”
The latest hurdle comes as Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman asked Speaker Curtis Pitt this week to refer Adani mining chief executive Lucas Dow to the parliamentary ethics committee for allegedly overstating the number of workers the company would employ. The size of the mine’s workforce in job-starved central Queensland has been disputed by Adani’s detractors, who say it will not justify the environmental consequences.
The Australian revealed last week that the workforce at the operational Carmichael facility would be “between 800 and 1500”.
Yet Mr Dow, when he appeared before a parliamentary committee in March, said the mine would result in “over 1500 direct jobs created through the ramp-up of construction, with a further 6750 indirect jobs created as a consequence of our development”.
An Adani spokeswoman said yesterday the company “categorically denies the accusation that Mr Lucas Dow deliberately misled the committee, as has been asserted by Mr Berkman”.