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Australia approves massive coal mine

October 15, 2015

Australia has re-approved a controversial plan for Indian mining conglomerate Adani to build one of the largest coal mines in the world. The mine has come under intense criticism from environmental groups.

Alpha Coal Testgrube
Image: Greenpeace/A. Quilty

Australia's environment minister, Greg Hunt, said on Thursday that the multi-billion dollar coal mining project would face "36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history." However, environmental groups vowed to continue opposition over a what they called a "complete disaster" for the climate and Great Barrier Reef.

The decision comes two months after a Federal Court blocked the Carmichael mine from moving forward due to concern over two threatened species - the yakka skink and the ornamental snake.

The court decision prompted debate in the Australian government on reviewing laws to make it more difficult for environmental groups to challenge development projects through "lawfare."

Hunt said the court's concerns had been addressed through "rigorous conditions" to protect the two threatened species, as well as off-set measures for other environmental impacts.

Yakka Skink
Image: Mackay Conservation Group

The conditions include Adani implementing advice from an independent scientific committee, protecting the southern black throated finch's habitat and monitoring ground water in the Doongmabulla Springs.

Another 643,000 euro ($736,000) will be provided over 10 years for conservation research in the Galilee Basin, where the mine will be located.

"These measures must be approved by myself before mining can start," Hunt said, adding he had authority to revoke the approval and impose penalties if conditions are violated.

The Mackay Conservation Group, which filed the case in the Federal Court, said Hunt's approval "risks threatened species, precious groundwater, the global climate and taxpayers' money."

The conservation group said the new conditions did not address the impacts of the mine that "can't be offset."

The 28,000 hectare mine, which includes a rail link and port projects, would create 10,000 direct and indirect jobs and 14.1 billion euros in taxes and royalties, according to Adani. Those numbers have been challenged by those opposed to the mine.

The port project is also controversial for the impact it could have on the Great Barrier Reef.

"This project means more dredging in the Great Barrier Reef, more ships through its waters and more carbon emissions," Greenpeace campaigner Shani Tiger said.

Adani welcomed Thursday's decision, but could still face a number of legal and bureaucratic hurdles as environmental groups vow to continue the legal fight. It has struggled for five years to get approval.

There remain questions over funding the 10.6-billion-euro project, which would produce 60 million tons of coal per year.

British bank Standard Chartered, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and other major US and European banks have said they will not fund the project due to environmental concerns.

cw/kms (AFP, PTI)