In a relief to Indian mining giant Adani Group, an Australian court today rejected a bid by environmentalists to stop its 16.5 billion dollar controversy- hit coal mine project, but said the firm has “exaggerated” the economic benefits including the amount of jobs and royalties.
The mega project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, which would become Australia’s largest coal mine, was challenged by Conservation group Coast and Country in Brisbane Land Court on the ground that it would affect groundwater, climate change and biodiversity, including black-throated finches, an endangered species.
Conservationists fear that the project threatens the fragile Great Barrier Reef and vulnerable species while worsening global climate change.
Land Court president Carmel MacDonald recommended state Environment Minister Greg Hunt to grant mining leases to Adani group on certain conditions including measures to protect the endangered black-throated finch, the ABC news reported.
“Those conditions include six hour monitoring of water bodies from dawn and greater assessments and surveys of the black-throated finch,” it said.
MacDonald also ordered that the Ten Mile Bore region be investigated to determine their importance in sustaining the black-throated finch population.
The court’s decision is a win for the Indian firm, which has been battling legal challenges and recently asked Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to create special laws to block objections from green groups, the Brisbane Times reported.
But in a blow for Adani, the court said the company exaggerated the economic benefits of its proposed Carmichael coal mine, including the amount of jobs and royalties the 16.5 billion dollar project would generate, the paper said.
Adani claims its project will deliver 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, and 22 billion dollars in taxes and royalties.
Adani’s own witness Jerome Fahrer told the court this year the project would create an average of just 1,464 jobs annually, an assessment MacDonald agreed with.
“Fahrer’s evidence, which I have accepted, was that the Carmichael Coal and Rail Project will increase average annual employment by 1206 fte [full time equivalent] jobs in Queensland and 1,464 fte jobs in Australia,” she ruled.
She also found Adani’s modelling had “probably overstated the selling price of the coal and therefore the royalties generated by the project and the corporate tax payable”.
But she said this was not enough to lead her to conclude the project should not go ahead. “Rather, I shall draw this information to the attention of the Minister,” she said.
Adani welcomed the decision as one that “recognises the pivotal role the resources sector plays in Queensland, subject to strict regulations”.
“Equally, the company welcomes the decision as yet another repudiation of politically motivated, activist-driven legal challenges, which only serve to deny the benefits of jobs and investment to Queensland and to Australia,” the paper quoted a spokesman of Adani as saying.