Progress on the Adani Carmichael mine in December, 2019. Picture: Contributed
Progress on the Adani Carmichael mine in December, 2019. Picture: Contributed

Election was ‘motivation’ for Adani mine, scientists claim

EXPERT groundwater advice in the Adani Carmichael mine approval process was “systematically ignored or dismissed”, a group of scientists has claimed.

Authorities’ handling of the controversial mine were recently reviewed in the Nature Sustainability journal by a team of groundwater scientists from Flinders University, RMIT University and the University of Queensland.

The scientists also concluded that the Federal election was a “strong motivation to fast track the approval of the mine”.

Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said a “rigorous assessment” of the mine’s water licence had been conducted by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy over almost two years.

An Adani spokeswoman said the heavily scrutinised planning and approvals process had spanned more than eight years.

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A scientist involved in the review, Dr Dylan Irvine, claimed information was held from the public until the mine was approved and pressure was placed on government scientists.

“In the weeks leading up to the final approval of the groundwater management plans, a detailed position paper from concerned scientists was presented to the Director-General of Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science,” Flinders University Hydrogeology Professor Adrian Werner said.

Doongmabulla Spring is an extensive spring complex located along the Galilee Basin. Picture: Lock the Gate Alliance.
Doongmabulla Spring is an extensive spring complex located along the Galilee Basin. Picture: Lock the Gate Alliance.

“Clearly our message did not alter the outcome. To the best of our knowledge, none of the data gaps that we highlighted have been addressed.”

Dr Irvine said despite the lengthy approvals process, a nearby spring – which supports about 150 wetlands – had remained a sticking point.

“A major question that remains is whether the Doongmabulla Spring Complex receives water exclusively from the shallow groundwater aquifers as asserted by Adani, or whether water, at least in part, is sourced from the deeper geological units,” he said.

“If the Doongmabulla Spring Complex receives water from the deeper units, there is a very real possibility that mining operations will cause the springs to dry up completely.”

The Carmichael mine was approved by State and Federal governments.

Dr Lynham said multimillion-dollar financial and regulatory safeguards, and a stringent monitoring regimen, were in place to manage water supply in and around the proposed project.

Mines Minister Anthony Lynham. Picture: Daryl Wright
Mines Minister Anthony Lynham. Picture: Daryl Wright

“There are more than 200 conditions on this project to protect the natural environment and the interests of landholders and traditional owners – more than 100 of these conditions relate to groundwater,” he said.

“Most importantly, the government has the ability to require a mine to stop operations if any of these licences are breached.”

An Adani spokeswoman said the company was focused on delivering the Carmichael Mine and Rail Project.

She said Adani had awarded more than $750 million in contracts.

“We remain on track to create more than 1500 direct jobs during the construction and ramp up of our project and some further 6750 indirect jobs,” the spokeswoman said.