Melbourne: Indian energy giant Adani on Thursday cleared the last regulatory hurdle to commence the work on its controversy-hit Carmichael coal mine near the iconic Great Barrier Reef in Australia with the Queensland state authorities approving its groundwater management plan.
The final and last approval for the group’s long-delayed billion dollar mega coal mine project came weeks after a surprise election win of Australia’s pro-coal ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Reacting to the development, Gautam Adani, Chairman of Ahmedabad-headquartered Adani Group said: “Today our remarkable journey of conviction, resilience, and commitment in Australia enters a new phase”.
“I am thankful to the Queensland government and the Australian federal government for believing in the Adani Group’s vision of strengthening India’s energy security and creating new opportunities for the people of Australia,” he said in a statement.
On May 31, the group won the first approval from the Queensland state government to protect the endangered black-throated finch bird population as part of its crucial environmental plan at the site of its mine project.
The finch management plan and the groundwater plan were the two persisting hurdles before the Indian energy giant could begin work on the largest coal mine project in the country.
The mining company is now expected to start construction at the site within days.
The State Department of Environment and Science said in a statement that it has approved the most recent version of the plan, which Adani submitted just a day ago. “Adani submitted its most recent version of the plan, addressing the department’s feedback, yesterday.
“The (plan’s) assessment has been rigorous and based on the best available science,” the department said.
The group’s country head — Adani Australia Chief Executive Officer Lucas Dow — said: “Adani Mining received advice Thursday from the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science that the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Management Plan has been finalised and approved.
“Throughout the past eight years, regional Queenslanders have been beside us every step of the way and we thank them for their on-going support. We’re ready to start work on the Carmichael Project and deliver the jobs these regions so badly need”.
The approval states that the plan complies with all regulatory conditions set by the Australian and state governments, bringing to a close a two-year process of rigorous scientific inquiry, review and approvals.
This includes relevant reviews by Australia’s pre-eminent scientific organisations CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, the group said in a statement.
“Moving forward, Adani Australia’s priority is ensuring the safety of everyone who works on the project and that all construction activity meets the strict environmental requirements we have agreed to meet in our management plans and approvals,” it said.
Over the coming days, preparatory activities such as finalising contracts, mobilising equipment, recruitment and completing inductions will continue.
“These preparatory actions will enable us to then start construction activities including fencing, bridge and road upgrades, water management and civil earthworks on the mine site. The level of construction activity will then steadily increase over the coming weeks.
“The project will deliver 1,500 direct and 6,750 indirect jobs during ramp up and construction, with Rockhampton and Townsville the primary hubs for employment,” it said, adding that the Whitsunday, Isaac, Central Highlands, Mackay, Charters Towers and Gladstone regions will also benefit from work packages and employment opportunities.
According to media reports, the company had earlier submitted almost a dozens of ground water management plans but failed to meet the key environmental requirements.
Adani, which has mining and environmental licences of the state government, required the state approvals on management plans on the endangered finch bird and groundwater in order to commence the mine construction.
Following the approval, Adani can now break ground at the site. However, its railway line design to get coal to the Abbot Point terminal, north of Bowen town, are yet to be finalised.
Adani has approvals to produce up to 60 million tonnes of thermal coal annually but at this stage, it is only planning to produce about 27.5 million tonnes.
Dow had last month said that the defeat of the opposition Labor Party in Queensland, where the project is based, is a clear message to get the project done.
Labour Party leader Bill Shorten, who took a firm stand against coal and mining, resigned as his party fared poorly in Queensland, especially in mining communities in the north of the state.
The Adani Carmichael mine is set to become the largest coal mine, with approval to produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal annually, and 2.3 billion tonnes over the life of the mine.
The group entered Australia in 2010 with the purchase of the greenfield Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland, and the Abbot Point port near Bowen in the north.
It would be one of the biggest mines in the world.
Adani said last year it would fully fund the coal mine and rail project itself, but did not give an updated estimate of the cost of the mine.
The mine previously estimated at about US$ 2.9 billion.
There had been protests against the project in the past due to its location near the Great Barrier Reef which has the world’s largest coral reef.