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Skink and little snake put hold on controversial coal mine

FEDERAL Environment Minister Greg Hunt will be forced to rethink his approval of the controversial Carmichael coal mine after a court found a flaw in his initial decision.

A vulnerable snake and skink lie at the crux of an environmental group's winning argument.

The Federal Court has set aside the Carmichael mine's approval after it was found Mr Hunt did not properly consider how the mine would impact the vulnerable Ornamental snake and Yakka skink.

Photo from Facebook by Moira Williams


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At heart of this legal battle was a small environmental group from Mackay, who enlisted the help of the Environmental Defenders Office when taking Minister Hunt to court.

Mackay Conservation Group's Ellen Roberts said they were happy about the win. But she was also disappointed.

"We're really concerned that it has taken a legal action by a community group to show up the flaws of the process, to show the fact that Australia's environmental laws aren't being followed by Greg Hunt," she said.

Adani said in a statement that the Federal Environment Department caused the "technical legal error" and that there were conditions to manage the protection of the skink and snake in the approval.

"However, we have been advised that, because certain documents were not presented by the department in finalising the approval, it created a technical legal vulnerability that is better to address now."

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt. Mike Richards GLA301013ENVN

The mining company remains confident the mine will still be approved.

The federal environment department also issued a statement saying it would take six to eight weeks to prepare advice for Mr Hunt to make his final decision.

They referred to the mistake as a "technical, administrative matter".

EDO Queensland chief executive Jo-Anne Bragg said without the Mackay Conservation Group taking up the legal challenge, Mr Hunt could have gotten away with not following the law.

"I think what it highlights is the importance of community groups being able to go to court and see that the law is enforced," she said.

Meanwhile, Ms Roberts said the ball was now in Mr Hunt's court.

Along with assessing the impact on the snake and skink, Ms Roberts said they hoped Mr Hunt would also reconsider other areas that formed part of their legal case, including the impact on climate change and whether Mr Hunt considered Adani's past environmental history in India before approving the mine.