Canberra, Oct 19 (IANS) Environmentalists are considering another legal challenge to the approval given to India’s Adani group to operate one of the world’s biggest coal mines in Queensland with 36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt on October 15 signed the documents giving the Adani group the green light for the AUS$16 billion ($12 billion) Carmichael coal mine project in remote central Queensland, ABC reported on Monday.
The approval given earlier was set aside by the Federal Court in August after a local environment group highlighted concerns that endangered species — yakka skink and ornamental snake — had not been properly considered.
With last week’s re-approval, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said the strict conditions included were, in fact, weaker than those originally imposed.
“In the previous approval, if Adani wanted to make any changes to the plans to protect the environment, they needed to seek the minister’s approval to do so,” ACF chief Kelly O’Shanassy said.
“Under this second approval process from Greg Hunt, Adani has the power to create changes in their plans without seeking any approval from the minister.”
She said Adani had a poor track record of environmental management internationally.
“For example in India they removed 75 hectares of mangrove conservation zone and they built an airport without permission,” O’Shanassy said.
However in a statement, a spokesperson for Hunt said the change simply cut red tape that did not result in an environmental benefit.
“Suggestions that the conditions for the re-approved Carmichael coal mine project are weaker than the earlier approval are just plain wrong,” the spokesperson said.
The mine, proposed for the Galilee Basin, 300 km inland of Bowen on the Queensland coast, would be Australia’s largest coal mine.
The company said it would potentially provide 10,000 jobs to the region, but Greenpeace calculates it would also release 128 million tonnes of climate-changing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.
O’Shanassy added environment organisations would consider further legal action against the mine but she denied it was simply a delaying tactic.
First proposed in 2010, the Carmichael project will dig up and transport about 60 million tonnes of coal a year for export, mostly to India.
It includes a railway project and was first approved by the government last year.