Adani has won the final approval it needs to construct its new coal mine in central Queensland.
Queensland’s environment department has signed off on a plan to manage groundwater on and around the company’s Galilee basin mine site. That’s despite enduring concerns held by some water experts that the mine could kill off an ancient springs complex, and have dire effects on the health of the Carmichael River.
The Indian mining company earlier vowed to immediately get on with building the mine if it gets the tick of approval.
It’s not the final approval Adani needs, but is the last obstacle that must be cleared for construction to proceed.
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Some water experts have warned the company has grossly underestimated the mine’s impacts on groundwater.
Hydrologists from four Australian universities say Adani’s water science is “severely flawed”, and the Doongmabulla Springs Complex near the mine could permanently dry up, killing off plant and animal species that depend on it.
“Adani has underestimated the likely impacts to the springs by adopting highly unrealistic parameters in their calculations while their modelling is riddled with uncertainties,” Flinders University hydrogeology professor Adrian Werner said.
“It will allow Adani to drain billions of litres of water with this groundwater plan then we are effectively playing Russian roulette with the very existence of a million-year-old ecosystem.”
Prof Werner also fears for the Carmichael River, saying Adani has grossly overstated the river’s current flow levels, and mining will disrupt groundwater sources that keep the river flowing for much of the year.
Adani has said its groundwater plan is the result of years of work, and it will trust the views of regulators tasked with assessing the plan.
Adani does not expect its plans to be affected by a federal court ruling late on Wednesday relating to its plans to take up to 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Sutton River.
The federal government conceded in a court challenge that it failed to properly consider public submissions on the proposal, and even lost some of them.
“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, chief executive Kelly O’Shannassy said.
A spokesman for the federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has said the decision has “no bearing on the federal approval for the Carmichael Coal mine itself,” and would not affect the Queensland government’s decision whether to grant Adani the final state approval it needs to begin constructing the mine.
Queensland’s environment department will reveal if it’s happy with Adani’s groundwater management plan, including a strategy to protect sacred wetlands which some experts believe could permanently dry up if the mine proceeds.
The department went back to Adani with additional requirements last week after the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia provided fresh advice on the company’s water plans.
Adani says it has already updated the plan and sent it back. If its water plans are approved, Adani has vowed to immediately restart mine construction.
The ruling will force the government to reopen public consultation.