Rebutting concerns raised by environmentalists on the approval of USD 16.5-bn coal and rail project of India's Adani Mining in Queensland, Australian environment minister Greg Hunt today said the claims about its impact on Great Barrier Reef were "exaggerated".
According to media reports here, Hunt while insisting that the project would not have a big impact on the reef, said, "Environmental groups such as Greenpeace are exaggerating the impact on the reef. It is casual, uninformed and its false and untrue."
He commented that the mine's predecessor, the Alpha Mine, was approved by Labor state and federal governments and environmental groups were less critical then.
"I think all that was said by Greenpeace was unfortunate, so it appears there is one rule for a Labor decision another rule for a Coalition Government decision," he said.
Environmentalists have raised strong concerns about dredging and dumping at the Abbot Point which is said to be a risk to the reef.
According to Australian Conservation Foundation, Adani's coal export proposals will require construction of a coal export terminal on the Great Barrier Reef coastline at Abbot Point.
"Though these port facilities have received Federal approval, they are being delayed by legal challenges brought by local community groups, with two cases currently in the courts," the foundation said in a statement.
It added, "In June, the World Heritage Committee said the Carmichael/Abbot point project could threaten the World Heritage status of the world-renowned and much-loved Great Barrier Reef."
According to Greenpeace Australia, Hunt gave the go-ahead to port expansions despite warnings from the Great Barrier Reef Marine park Authority and UNESCO that the development would place the reef in danger.
However, the Hunt said the approval to Adani's Carmichael Coal and Rail Project in Galilee Basin came along with 36 "strict" conditions focused on conserving groundwater.
On concerns that Adani will take too much water out of the local water supply, Hunt said Adani would return a minimum 730 mega litres of water to the Basin every year for 5 years.
He said final water modelling will be done during the course of the project.
"It can't proceed without that. But all up, what we are seeking to do is to ensure there is minimal – if any – impact and that is where the 730 million litres comes in," he said adding "it is about making sure that we are making good on the overall issues."
"What we have