Australia’s Queensland state government has asked Indian energy giant Adani to provide more information on its groundwater management plans, posing another hurdle which may further delay the construction of its proposed billion dollar mine project, expected to be one of the biggest in the world.
The decision came after the Queensland government rejected a management plan of Adani to protect endangered black-throated finch bird population, saying the company’s proposals do not meet the approval conditions.
The black-throated finch management plan and a groundwater plan are the two persisting hurdles before the Indian energy giant could begin work on its controversy-hit Carmichael mining project in Central Queensland.
Adani Mining’s chief executive Lucas Dow said the new request came from the Department of Environment and Science (DES) last Friday, Australian Associated Press news reported on Monday.
“It appears this process will again go beyond the scope of what our project is required to deliver under regulatory conditions – and, put simply, is another fishing expedition,” he said.
Dow said the DES had not provided Adani with the scope of the new review and accused the government of hiding the process behind a veil of secrecy.
“Trying to see what needs to be done to ensure these management plans can be signed off is like trying to see through a brick wall – there is absolute zero transparency,” Dow said.
Federal Environment Minister Melisa Price had cleared the groundwater plans submitted by Adani which according to Dow had followed an eight months of assessment including review by CSIRO and Geoscience Australia. Reacting to the latest request by the state, Queennsland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said further analysis was a standard procedure.
“These are just processes that every mining company needs to adhere to. It’s just not one rule for Adani and one rule for everyone else,” the premier said.
According to ‘The Brisbane Times’, Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science also provided a statement saying “Adani’s claims about DES seeking another review are false”.
“The department has sought updated advice from CSIRO and Geoscience Australia on the latest version of the groundwater management plan, which is not the version that was reviewed by CSIRO and Geoscience Australia,” it said.
“This includes further clarification around the evidence to support identification of the source aquifer(s) of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex,” it added.
Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science said this information, which concerned CSIRO earlier this year, was important to evaluate.
Adani, which already has mining and environmental licences from the state government, requires the state approvals on management plans on the endangered finch bird and groundwater in order to commence the mine construction.
The company was given green light by the federal government for its groundwater plan last month before the Morrison Government announced election dates.
The project has passed several legal challenges in court since 2010 and is seen as a most scrutinised coal project in the country.
Gautam Adani-led Adani 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.
The massive coal mine in Queensland state has been a controversial topic, with the project expected to produce 2.3 billion tonnes of low-quality coal.
Carmichael would be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the biggest 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 was previously estimated at about US$ 2.9 billion.