Indian mining giant Adani’s plan to build one of the world’s largest coal mines got a new lease of life on Thursday after the Australian government gave its re-approval to the 16.5 billion controversy-hit project but with “strictest conditions” amid environmental concerns.
Over two months after an Australian court revoked the environmental approval for the project, Environment Minister Greg Hunt signed the papers, giving Adani the re-approval with conditions imposed that take into account community issues and would ensure that the company meets the highest environmental standards.
The federal court in August had revoked the original approval due to a bureaucratic bungle over two vulnerable species — the yakka skink and the ornamental snake.
Stating that Adani’s Carmichael Mine and North Galilee Basin Rail project in Queensland was given re-approval “in accordance with national environment law”, Hunt said his nod for the venture considered additional information provided by Adani and environmental groups.
The approval would be “subject to 36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history,” he said.
“The conditions I have imposed take into account issues raised by the community and ensure that the proponent must meet the highest environmental standards,” Hunt said.
“The rigorous conditions will protect threatened species and provide long-term benefits for the environment through the development of an offset package,” he said.
Hunt said he would personally approve the measures before mining can start.
“I have the power to suspend or revoke the approval and strict penalties apply if there is a breach of the strict conditions. Department of Environment compliance and enforcement officers will closely monitor the operation of the mine,” he said.
Conservationists fear that the project threatens the Great Barrier Reef and vulnerable species while worsening global climate change.
Meanwhile, Adani Australia on Thursday welcomed the latest announcement and said the re-approval by the federal government made it clear that concerns have been addressed, reflected in “rigorous and painstaking” conditions.
The approval is subject to 36 conditions that Adani must meet before it starts work on its Carmichael Mine and North Galilee Basin rail project
Adani stressed that what was required for companies planning major job creating and infrastructure generating projects in Australia is certainty on approvals.
“It is certainty over the remaining approvals that is now key to the company progressing its plan to deliver mine, rail and port projects in Queensland that will deliver 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, and USD 22 billion in taxes and royalties to be reinvested back into community services,” the statement said.
“Consistent with our public statements over the past several months, we look forward to the remaining government approvals and decision processes being dealt with promptly to ensure these job creating projects get back on track, so the much needed economic benefits of this project can commence and we can continue with our aspiration to build a long term future with Queensland,” the company said.
The Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Infrastructure project is located approximately 300 kilometres inland in remote central Queensland.
The strict conditions imposed on the project include implementation of all advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC), protection and improving of 31,000 hectares of southern black throated finch habitat and requirement of USD 1 million of funding for research programmes to improve conservation of threatened species in the Galilee Basin over 10 years.
The conditions also include ensuring protection of Doongmabulla Springs through strict monitoring of groundwater and triggers to take action so impacts do not exceed the approved limits.
“The rigorous conditions will protect threatened species and provide long-term benefits for the environment through the development of an offset package. These measures must be approved by myself before mining can start,” Hunt said in a statement.
Protecting precious water resources from impacts of large coal mines is a priority of the Australian Government, he asserted.
“The proponent is required to provide a Groundwater Management and Monitoring plan, which must receive approval from myself before mining can commence,” Hunt said.
“I have also remade the approval decision for Adani Mining Pty Ltd’s North Galilee Basin Rail Project with 23 strict conditions, as a precautionary measure to provide investment certainty,” he said.
The project recently suffered a series of setbacks as apart from the revocation of its environmental approval, British bank Standard Chartered and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia withdrew as financial advisers.
Adani, in its statement said, “In early August of this year, the approval granted by the Minister in July 2014 was partially set aside, following consent orders of the Federal Court to address a legal technicality in the approval process arising from a technical error on the part of the Environment Department.”
“Adani noted at the time that the company was confident in the soundness of the broader approvals, that the species involved had been protected by conditions, and that the technical error would be promptly rectified,” the company statement said.