Adani’s plan to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in Australia received a boost today by a last-minute amendment to Queensland’s new water laws that would exempt the Indian mining giant’s controversy-hit 21.7 billion dollar project from any public objection process.The Queensland government has granted Adani’s Carmichael mine project in the Galilee Basin an 11th-hour exemption to new water laws that could have seen the project subjected to further legal challenges.
The government has introduced laws requiring Queensland mining projects to obtain a water licence, in an effort to reduce the impact on ground water. However, the Annastacia Palaszczuk government yesterday added an amendment to the laws that will allow the Adani mine project, which has already faced significant legal action, to avoid court challenges to its water licence.
Under the amendment, projects that have already finalised proceedings with the Land Court will be able to obtain a licence from the government without being subjected to challenges from the public, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
State Environment Minister Steven Miles had moved the amendment which would mean that companies that had already undergone scrutiny through an environmental impact statement (EIS) and the Land Court would still require a water licence but would not have to go through the public objection process.
“This will be achieved by allowing associated water licence applications to be exempt from public notification if the mining project has already been through an EIS process and a Land Court objections hearing in which objectors tested the groundwater modelling undertaken by the project proponent with expert evidence of their own,” Miles said.
“That particular project has been through two very significant Land Court cases and so what we’ve said is if they can demonstrate that they have met the requirements of the water licence and all of those elements had been tested in previous Land Court hearings, then this water licence stage would not be appealable in the Land Court,” Miles said.
“It would still be subject to potential judicial review, but not a full Land Court challenge,” he added.
In response to the latest move, Adani Australia welcomed the state government’s support for recognising that the company has already passed all scientific and legal examinations to ensure rigorous measures are in place to manage water impacts at its Carmichael coal mine.
“The amendment recognises the significant work Adani has already done to manage water impacts and avoids unintended and unnecessary duplication and further delay for the 21 billion dollar projects involving a mine and infrastructure including a rail link and port developments,” Adani said in a statement.
Thanking all parliamentarians, Adani Australia CEO Jeyakumar Janakaraj said, “I give particular credit to the Premier who recently announced in Townsville that she wanted to clear the barriers”.
“By recognising an area of concern in this bill that might have opened up a new line of activist delays and addressing it, the Premier and her government has been true to their word,” Janakaraj said.
“We are very encouraged the Government did recognise the balance between its commitment on water licensing and acknowledging that this work has already been done in our case, and that the new provisions as originally drafted risked unintended duplication and activist appeals,” he said.
“We look forward to continuing working with the Premier and the State Government — as we have with Federal and Local governments — to making these projects a reality in the interest of jobs and investment,” he added.
Janakaraj thanked regional mayors and business leaders who have continually declared their strong public support and asked all political leaders to help end the delays and avoid further red tape.
“This strong demonstration of our regional support and the local demand for jobs is very important to Adani and of course that’s why we are talking to those communities about our plans to base our regional headquarters and hubs in the regions. It is important to also acknowledge the support of the LNP and the cross bench,” Janakaraj said.
“With continued cross party and community support we remain confident in our efforts to commence construction in 2017,” he said.
Miles said the bill addressed the needs of disparate water users to create a transparent, streamlined and environmentally responsible approach to allocating underground water rights.
“For the community, the bill will ensure groundwater impacts are properly considered and can be scrutinised by the public and the courts,” he said.
“For the resources industry, there is a streamlined process that better integrates groundwater assessment into the environmental impact assessment process. For landholders, the bill not only provides a positive step forward for improved groundwater management, it also will assist landholders to better negotiate make good agreements with resource companies,” he said.