From the time of Adani’s initial application for a mining license for the Carmichael Mine project in October 2010, local farmers and graziers have had concerns about the project’s impact on ground water and the Great Artesian Basin.
This was translated into legal challenges to the Carmichael, Kevin’s Corner and Alpha mines in the Galilee Basin. The controversial Adani project, while still financially dubious, has one legal barrier to overcome. The High Court is set to bring down a decision in March on the appeal by the Traditional Owners, the Wangan and Jagalingou people.
In the Darling Downs, the Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA), a community group of more than 60 farmers and residents, mounted one of the largest environmental cases in Australian history to prevent stage 3 of the New Acland Coal (NAC) mine going ahead. In an unprecedented and historic decision, the Land Court recommended outright rejection of the mine’s proposed expansion.
However, in June the mine’s owner New Hope Coal filed for judicial review of the Land Court’s decision. The Supreme Court will perform the review in March. While there are no legal impediments to the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lyneham refusing the mining application, as recommended by the court, it appears that he will delay a decision pending the outcome of the judical review.
Two events set the political context in the lead up to the critical crunch time of March: the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Board is due to reach a decision on the $1 billion loan application by Adani for the rail link to Abott Point in December; and the Queensland state election could be called at any time up until May.
Farmers in central and western Queensland and the Darling Downs have intensified their campaigns to stop the expansion of coal.
OCAA has held protests in Brisbane and local areas calling on the minister to immediately reject the NAC expansion. On October 24 Oakey farmers and Inala locals demonstrated outside Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s electorate office, delivering a petition and letters asking for the Queensland government to reject the Stage 3 expansion.
Farmers for Climate Action held packed public meetings in Emerald and Longreach in October where farmers and graziers voiced concerns about the impact of the Queensland government’s decision to grant Adani free unlimited access to water on the region’s agricultural industry.
The Longreach event, held at the iconic Stockman’s Hall of Fame, was attended by more than 70 locals, including more than 30 graziers. Many of them are in the grip of drought.
Third-generation Longreach grazier Alex Graham said: “Out here, water is life. We are well into our fifth year of consecutive drought and know many graziers around here who rely on groundwater to keep livestock alive. We’re extremely concerned about Adani’s unlimited 60-year groundwater licence.”
Coinciding with these meetings, the Queensland government announced the compulsory acquisition of 3568 hectares of agricultural land for the rail link from the Galilee Basin to Abbot Point. The move was announced as farmers were meeting in Emerald. “It’s shocking that the Queensland government thinks it’s fair to compulsorily acquire 3568 hectares of land from farmers to stitch up a special deal for Adani’s private rail line,” said fifth-generation grazier William Graham.
“Our industry’s interests are being sacrificed for a project that will harm the future of our region. We knew Adani were taking water from agriculture with their free unlimited groundwater licence; now they’re taking our land as well.”
Farmers for Climate Action CEO Verity Morgan-Schmidt said: “The Queensland government has broken farmers’ trust. They promised us Adani’s infrastructure would be privately funded and not subsidised by taxpayers. Now they've handed yet another free gift to an international, multi-billion dollar company."
Jericho Grazier Bruce Currie has been fighting the inevitable destruction of his livelihood posed by the Adani and GVK Hancock coalmines and was part of a delegation that travelled to India (at the same time as Palaszczuk) to witness the impact of the Adani Corporation there, has announced that he will stand as an independent for the seat of Gregory in the state election.
He said there were "25 million environmental activists" in Australia who cared for the environment like he did. Currie said he was not only fighting court battles but also rhetoric that accuses those who challenged mega-mines of being “extremists”.