Indian multinational conglomerate Adani Group has pleaded guilty to providing false or misleading information to the environmental regulatory authority in Queensland state in Australia, ABC News reported on Thursday. A local court fined the Adani Group AUD 20,000 (Rs 9.63 lakh).
In court documents, the Department of Environment and Science said Adani Group filed its annual returns in March 2018 with a graph declaring that it cleared no land on the controversial Carmichael mine site in 2017-’18. However, the department said this was false. It said the Adani Group “knew or ought reasonably to have known [the document] was false or misleading”, as it had carried out land clearing in the area during that financial year.
On September 6, 2018, conservation group Coast and Country cited satellite imagery to make allegations of land clearing against the Adani Group. State and federal environment department officials then inspected the site, ABC News reported.
Nearly two weeks later, the Adani Group amended its return to declare a total of 132 hectares cleared, including 5.8 hectares in 2017-’18. Following this, it was fined AUD 20,000. However, the court did not record the conviction.
An Adani Group spokesperson criticised the fine. “The prosecution is proceeding despite the fact all relevant works were legal, and fully complied with our project conditions, and despite there being no environmental harm,” she said. “Improvements to internal processes were introduced at the time the administrative error was discovered and reported by us to ensure paperwork errors of this nature are avoided in the future.” She said the group will continue to participate in the legal process to resolve the matter.
In 2016, the Federal Court of Australia had dismissed a challenge by an environmental group to the Carmichael mine project in Queensland, saying that the state government’s decision to approve it was lawful. The Australian Conservation Foundation had challenged the lawfulness of the approval granted to the project in November 2015.
Another challenge to the $21 billion (approximately Rs 1.4 lakh crore) mining project by an indigenous community was dismissed on the grounds that the country’s National Native Title Tribunal had not made an incorrect decision in awarding the mining leases. Before that, Group owner Gautam Adani had expressed his frustrations with the delays in the project.