Push is on to approve Adani coalmine before federal elections

Abbott Point coal spillage.

Adani has launched another public relations’ offensive in a bid to secure its last approvals before it can start work on its Carmichael coalmine in central Queensland.

It wants to start before the federal election in May, and the Coalition is keen to help it along.

On March 20 federal resources minister Matt Canavan visited the Adani site for a briefing, along with Liberal and National Party MPs Michelle Landry, George Christensen and Ken O’Dowd.

Canavan later posted on his Facebook that the mine was ready to go, criticising the delays imposed by the Queensland Labor government. He did not respond to questions about whether Adani or taxpayers had paid for his flight.

The Courier Mail quoted Canavan saying that Adani’s groundwater approval will be “settled in weeks”, pre-empting the report findings of CSIRO and Geoscience Australia which have not been released. It claims that once the reports are received the federal government will tick off the approval. 

Adani blames the Queensland government for the delays, giving the Coalition its election campaign pitch.

But the delay is connected to the yet-to-be released Queensland government-commissioned independent report on a management plan for the endangered black-throated finch. Adani has pre-emptively said it will reject the report.

Separately, the Queensland government has to approve the ground water management plan.

Legal challenges

Adani’s claim that its final approval is imminent also ignores the outstanding legal challenges.

The High Court decision on the appeal by the Wangan and Jagalingou Tribal Council (W&J) has been delayed until April or May — a delay caused by Adani’s unsuccessful attempt to have W&J elders sued for legal costs

In December, the Environment Defenders Office Queensland (EDO QLD), on behalf of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), lodged a challenge in the Federal Court seeking a review of the decision to allow assessment of Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme to proceed without applying the water trigger, as specified under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

On March 15, the EDO’s lawyers added an extra ground to that action arguing that the federal environment minister failed to properly consider more than 1000 public comments in submissions on the pipeline.

This could add months to reaching a final decision on whether to allow the mine to proceed.

If successful, the action would force the government to go back to the drawing board and consider the impact a huge pipeline project would have on Australia’s scarce water resources.

“If we are successful, the minister will need to go back to square one and properly consider every one of the valid comments before making a new decision on the NGWS [North Galilee Water Scheme],” said one person in an email to the EDO Qld.

Dismissive attitude

Adani has displayed a dismissive attitude towards the environmental requirements of existing approvals. The Department of Environment and Science (DES) charged the Adani-owned Abbot Point Bulk Coal (APBC) with breaching a temporary emissions licence due to a discharge at the coal terminal during Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

APBC is contesting the $12,190 penalty. The matter is still before the courts.

During last month’s major rain event in Queensland, APBC compounded the original breach by releasing contaminated water into sensitive wetlands. Adani was fined $13,055 on March 25 for another breach of its environmental obligations.

Adani protested that extreme weather and flooding played a role, and that the Caley Valley Wetlands and Great Barrier Reef were not harmed.

ACF’s Christian Slattery said: “If Adani can’t safely operate Abbot Point, how can it be expected to safely operate a giant coal mine?”

“It is ironic that Adani blamed extreme weather for this spill incident”, he continued.

“If Adani’s planned Carmichael mine goes ahead, digging up and burning that coal will add to global warming, which is intensifying heatwaves, bushfires, floods and other extreme weather.”

The Mackay Conservation Group has described the Caley Valley as “one of the most beautiful and largest coastal wetlands in Queensland”.

“Of the 200-plus known species of birds that frequent the wetlands, three are listed as threatened, including a nationally important of the vulnerable Australian Painted Snipe,” the group said.

National movement grows

The national movement against the Adani mine is having an impact. Polls show that there is growing opposition to the mine in Central Queensland.

Activists are focussing on Labor MPs in the lead up to the federal elections with local Stop Adani groups and Greypower initiating actions outside their electorate offices.

The Galilee Blockade and Frontline Action on Coal (FLAC) are continuing with direct actions aimed at companies contracted by Adani.

The latest in the firing line is Wagners, subcontracted for the construction of initial infrastructure. Wagners’ share price recently slumped and it is keen to secure the Adani contract.

Galilee Blockade activists have been telephoning Wagners executives to warn that the company’s operations will be disrupted if it starts work for Adani. 

Over the summer, FLAC activists disrupted rail operator Aurizon coal trains. The $8.3 billion rail company provides Adani with coal transportation to its Abbot Point Terminal.

Aurizon is now suing FLAC activists for $375,000 compensation.

FLAC spokesperson Hayley Sestokas has called on Aurizon to change tack and “lead the way” in addressing climate change instead of “attempting to silence dissent”.

“Aurizon and Adani have got it very wrong if they think legal attacks will get them off the hook for ignoring scientific consensus and the majority of Australians,” Sestokas said.

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