Giant mine dragged back to court
Australia’s largest planned coal mine is going back to court again, this time to face what the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) calls an “historic, landmark case”.
The ACF has lodged papers in the Federal Court accusing Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt of failing to take the impact of burning coal and climate pollution into account when approving the mine.
The conservationists say the mine would be inconsistent with Australia’s international obligations to guard the Great Barrier Reef under the United National's World Heritage convention.
“This is the first time in history that the grounds that are in these documents have been brought to a court in Australia,” ACF president Geoff Cousin said this week.
Indian mining firm Adani has proposed a $16 billion mine and rail line for Queensland's Galilee Basin, but it has faced a barrage of challenges from the very start.
The biggest win for opponents of the mine came just a few weeks ago, when the Mackay Conservation Group successfully proved that Mr Hunt failed to consider the mine’s impact on two endangered native species – the yakka skink and the ornamental snake.
But that setback lasted less than a month, with Mr Hunt managing to re-approve the project with 36 conditions soon after.
Mr Cousins says the latest challenge is much stronger.
“The aim of the Australian Conservation Foundation... is to stop this mine,” he told reporters on Monday.
“We are not interested at all in delaying tactics and I have to say in the 50-year history of the Australian Conservation Foundation, we have only brought seven cases.
“If we are successful, then the ACF... will have brought a case that will greatly strengthen the environmental laws in this country.”
Adani has issued a statement saying ACF’s move was just “the latest in a litany of attempts by politically motivated activists seeking to endlessly delay new job-creating projects in Queensland”.
“Adani has consistently said what is required for major job-creating resource projects to proceed in this state, and in Australia more broadly, is regulatory and approvals certainty,” the spokesperson said.
“It is one thing for a project's approval to be challenged - it is quite another to wait for previous challenges to fail, then launch new ones on different grounds over and over again, seeking endless delay, and endlessly abusing process.
“At this time, it is worth restating that the proposed mine at Carmichael has been approved, and subsequently re-approved, with the strictest conditions ever handed down under the EPBC Act.
“Adani is confident in the soundness of Minister Hunt's approval of the mine under the act.
“Indeed, when Minister Hunt announced that the mine had been re-approved, some activist groups went so far as to indicate they would launch an appeal despite not being sure of the grounds on which to do so.”
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) is concerned that the new legal challenge will delay the massive coal mine by up to a year, with QRC chief Michael Roche labelling the challenge a “nonsense”.
“Arguing that Australian coal mines are responsible for the use of our coal in customer countries would be like saying Saudi Arabia should be responsible for the emissions from Australian motorists using Saudi Arabian petroleum,” he said.
“There is simply no end to the opportunities in our legal system for the activists to use the federal and Queensland court systems.
“My challenge to our politicians is: when is enough, enough?”