Adani is Cleared to Start Digging its Coal Mine – Six Key Questions Answered

Jerri-Lynn here. Last week Queensland gave approval to Indian mining company Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine – reminding us that it’s not just in the United States where fossil fuels interests hold sway.

Make sure you click on the interactive graphic, which includes considerably more detail than the text of this short post.

By Adrian Werner, Professor of Hydrogeology, Flinders University and Matthew Currell, Associate Professor in Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering, RMIT University Originally published at The Conversation

There is now nothing standing between Indian mining giant Adani and the coal buried in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

By approving the Adani’s groundwater management plan on June 13, the Queensland government has given the final green light to the company’s controversial Carmichael coal mine.

What did the Queensland government just approve?

The Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES) approved the project’s Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan, which had previously won federal government approval.

This plan outlines Adani’s proposed strategies to protect ecosystems that depend on groundwater, such as the Doongmabulla Springs wetland, which some experts have warned could be destroyed by the project. The plan’s approval at a state level removes the final legislative hurdle standing in the mine’s way.

Didn’t the federal government suffer a legal setback this week relating to the mine? Why is the mine still clear to proceed?

On June 12, in response to a legal challenge by the Australian Conservation Foundation, the federal government conceded in the federal court that it failed to properly consider public submissions in passing judgement on Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme.

This scheme concerns Adani’s plans for taking water from the Suttor River to the east of the mine, which will be required for mining operations.

The federal government will now need to reappraise this proposal. But the approval to take river water does not impact Adani’s ability to start mine construction.

Has Adani made significant changes to its groundwater plan in light of scientific criticism?

In February 2019, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia advised the Queensland government that they did not consider Adani’s groundwater plan adequate for assessing the risk to local springs. They recommended more research drilling, monitoring and analysis, to better understand the source aquifer for the springs.

On June 7, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia responded to a series of questions from the Queensland government. They effectively reiterated their earlier concerns, including that Adani’s groundwater model is not fit for the purpose of assessing the mine’s likely impacts to the springs.

Among a raft of suggested changes to the groundwater plan, they recommended that Adani make firmer commitments to protecting the springs. However, Adani has not strengthened this part of the plan, and actions required to address impacts to the springs remain vague.

Adani has made some changes to the investigations it is required to complete within one to two years. But there appears to be no new scientific work or findings in the most recent version of the groundwater plan to address scientific uncertainties or flaws in the modelling, as pointed out by CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and others.

Does Adani know where the Doongmabulla Springs water comes from?

No. Adani and the Queensland government seem relatively confident that the source aquifer for the springs is a geological unit called the Clematis Sandstone. But the Queensland government acknowledges that some uncertainty remains. The CSIRO and Geoscience Australia advice makes clear the springs could in fact flow from multiple sources, in agreement with a consortium of other experts. Adani has been asked to determine this during the first two years of the mine’s operation.

So have the scientific concerns been satisfied or not?

The final groundwater plan is based on science that has been shown to be questionable and containing crucial errors and data gaps, as indicated in the CSIRO/Geoscience Australia reviews in both February and June 2019. The plan also fails to consider key scientific issues that we raised in collaboration with colleagues from other universities. The shortcomings in the science raised by a range of scientists from multiple universities and agencies will therefore remain unaddressed until after mining activity begins, risking irreversible harm to the Doongmabulla Springs.

We believe that uncertainties in the future groundwater impacts from the mine are high, but could have been addressed if Adani had acted upon the advice it has repeatedly received over the past six years.

After so many government approvals processes, court rulings, and legal challenges, does Adani truly have permission to start digging now?

Yes. Adani’s excavations will mark the start of a highly uncertain experiment into the effects of mega-scale disturbance to a natural groundwater flow system and the ecosystems that depend on it. Time will tell whether the benefits of the mine warrant the impacts it will cause.

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  1. Peter Lynch

    What kind of March are they using? That is going to become a billion dollar albatross – good they deserve it. Someone got a bribe and now the people are going to pay – sick.

  2. a different chris

    Does Adani know where the Doongmabulla Springs water comes from?


    Jesus. Sick, sick world we live in. “Science”, huh? Not seeing a lot of it, actually.

  3. The Rev Kev

    There is something missing here and that is the mention of a port for all that coal to go out of the country at a place called Abbot Point ( Both Deutsche Bank & HSBC refused to fund it due to environmental concerns which would affect their reputation. Now that is remarkable that. And also, this port is on the coastline of the Great Barrier Reef. You know – that thing that goes for about 2,000 kilometers. 2,000 kilometers of razor sharp, ship-destroying coral and there have been over 1,600 known shipwrecks in this region the past two centuries going back to Captain Cook’s near loss of his ship the “Endeavour”.
    What really made this development inevitable was the win of the Coalition government a few weeks ago which was all for more coals mines and coal plants. The State government, seeing the writing on the wall, folded rather than be annihilated at the next State elections. What may have helped galvanize the Coalition win in the crucial Seats in Queensland was a protest convoy a few weeks before the Federal elections. With the ex-leader of the Greens, several dozen protesters took off in their cars and traveled north in a publicity-filled convoy to protest the mines. They made themselves as welcome as a fart in an elevator and lots of businesses refused to sell them anything. The protesters did not say what all these people should do if the mine did not go ahead but at least they had the grace not to say that they should learn to code. All this galvanized the Coalition vote in these regions which helped give the Coalition victory in the Federal elections and now the die is cast.

    1. John Zelnicker

      @The Rev Kev
      June 17, 2019 at 10:54 am

      You’ve added some very interesting facts and analysis, Rev. Thank you.

      There is a bunch of information about Abbot Point in the graphic, along with many financial details about the project, the potential environmental impacts (all of which sound very bad), and some of the politics. The pages of the graphic fill in most of the details missing from the text of the post.

  4. Jesper

    It is kind of amazing that coal, with no shortage anytime soon, is getting priority over ground-water which might be facing shortage. Is the logic that it is faster to replenish ground-water than to replenish coal? Something in the infallible (?) market does not seem to get the pricing done properly…

  5. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    It’s running the way everything else in the world running these days: 8 billionaires make serious bank while the people and the planet die.

    Really all you need to know. Foreign policy. Eco policy. Health care policy. Economic policy.

    Meantime the sheeple go nice and gently into that good night. Would that they would take some inspiration and solidarity from the people of Hong Kong and get out in the streets: it’s the only thing that works.

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