Coal mine or land mine?

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Environment groups ask Court to overturn approval of $ 16.5 billion coal mine in Queensland claiming it will cause irreversible environmental damage; Adani head calls it a mere test case for large scale Indian investment in the future

Indian mining giant Adani has been forced to defend its $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland, with conservationists, scientists and an indigenous group saying it will cause

Adani is facing legal challenges in the Federal Court and Queensland Land Court, while representatives from the Wangan and Jagalingou people are divided over the mine going ahead on their traditional land.

While the challenges make the mine’s future uncertain, Adani’s Australian chief executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj told the Courier Mail he wasn’t losing sleep, and furthermore considered the mine to be a test cast for large scale Indian investment.

“We genuinely believe this is a test case for more investment from India on this scale,” Janakaraj said. “If we do it right, a lot of players will benefit and Australia will benefit because more players will come in.”

The Mackay Conservation Group is asking the Federal Court to overturn Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s approval of the mine, saying he breached the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act by not considering the massive greenhouse gas emissions the mine would generate, and the knock-on effect it would have on the Great Barrier Reef.

Meanwhile, Land Services of Coast and Country is arguing that the mega mine – which would export up to 75 million tonnes of coal through the Great Barrier Reef annually for 60 odd years – poses a litany of environmental, social, climate and economic concerns, in a Land Court case.

“The first thing we’re seeking is that the Land Court will recommend against granting of this massive coal mine, which will cause so much environmental damage and produce arguably not much economic benefit,” Jo-Anne Bragg, CEO of the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), which is representing Land Services of Coast and Country told The Indian Sun.

Adani Mining Pty Ltd, the Australian subsidiary of India’s Adani Enterprises, was granted mining licenses over 28,000 hectares in the Galilee Basin and received Federal approval for the Carmichael Port and Rail Project last July. It has not yet received state government approvals.

The biggest coalmine project in Australia and one of the largest in the world, Carmichael consists of six open cut mines and five underground mines set to supply Indian power plants.

In a five-week court case starting 31 March, EDO is arguing that the mine would contribute significantly to climate change, threaten endangered species, biodiversity, the Great Barrier Reef, and Artisanal spring water, and may not be financially viable, given falling coal prices.

Bragg said claims Adani made in the media that the mine would create 6000 to 8000 ongoing jobs was incorrect, which Adani’s economist has agreed on. “In fact the number of jobs to be made by the mine if it went ahead has now been agreed to be only about 1600 net jobs,” Bragg said. “One of the benefits of the court case is that the economic modelling, or if you like puffery of Adani is being really scrutinised.”

Perched on the edge of Great Dividing Range – which runs from the top of Queensland to the bottom of the continent in Victoria – the Carmichael mine is smack bang in the middle of an area of great value environmentally, according to Land Services of Coast and Country’s Derec Davies.

“That also happens to be the edge of the Great Artesian Basin, which is Australia’s primary source of water for inland communities, inland businesses and agricultural and other produce,” Davies told the Indian Sun.

“It’s why it’s so precious, because it’s generally relatively intact with its remnant vegetation and habitat to emus and many endangered species, and again the springs – the Great Artesian Basin springs,” he added.

Experts for EDQ told the court the mine would destroy the grassland home of one of Australia’s two last remaining populations of endangered black-throated finch, as well as threatening squatter pigeons, ornamental snakes, yakka skinks, and migratory birds in the area.

They also argued that the estimated 4.5 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions generated by burning coal over the mine’s 60-year lifespan would exacerbate climate change and impact the Great Barrier Reef, causing coral bleaching and ocean acidification.

Bragg said she hoped the Land Court case would show Australia needed to take responsibility for the impacts of mining.

“We’re hoping that this will also show fairly and squarely, as we consider the law to be, that Australia has to take responsibility for the environmental harm caused by burning coal overseas,” Bragg said.

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