The Australian government on Tuesday said it has granted approval to a coal mine project by Indian businessman Gautam Adani. Environment Minister Melissa Price announced that she has approved groundwater management plans submitted by the Adani Group after the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Geoscience Australia found that they meet scientific requirements, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“Following this independent assessment and the Department of Environment and Energy’s recommendation for approval, I have accepted the scientific advice and therefore approved the groundwater management plans,” she said.
Environmental groups have raised concerns about the impact of groundwater bores at the Carmichael coal mine site on the Great Artesian Basin, which is the source of groundwater for large parts of the region. They fear that any “dewatering” bores, which lower groundwater levels to make mining activities easier, could have a devastating effect on the Doongmabulla Springs wetland area. Demonstrations were also held against the proposed coal mine.
The Environment Ministry’s clearance means only the approval of the Queensland government is necessary for the project to proceed. However, Price added that the project “must meet further stringent conditions of approval from the Commonwealth before it can begin producing coal”. She claimed that the project has undergone the most rigorous approval process of any mining project in Australia.
MPs from Queensland in the Scott Morrison-led government had been pressurising Price to approve the plan before elections are held in May.
The Opposition Labor Party has been opposed to public funding of the project. On Tuesday, Labor MP Bill Shorten claimed Price had been bullied by her peers.
Adani Mining Chief Executive Officer Lucas Dow welcomed the approval, and said the firm will meet federal conditions regarding extracting groundwater. “The plans will ensure we achieve sustainable environmental outcomes and we’re now looking forward to delivering the thousands of jobs our project will create for people in north and central Queensland,” he said.