Adani shuns water trigger despite drought
Summary: Indian mining giant Adani is seeking to dodge federal scrutiny of its plan to build a pipeline pumping billions of litres of water from a river in drought-stricken central Queensland to feed its Carmichael mega-mine.....
Labor says the move is nonsensical and casts further doubt over the coal project, which the party is under pressure to halt should it win government.
The $16.5 billion Carmichael project would be Australia’s largest coal mine and would open Queensland’s Galilee Basin to further coal development.
In a plan being evaluated by federal environment authorities, Adani wants to build a 61 kilometre pipeline to pump up to 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River to the mine.
The project, known as the North Galilee Water Scheme, could also provide water to “other resource extraction projects” in the region such as the China Stone coal project, Adani says.
The documents show Adani claims the water trigger applies only to water used in the extraction of coal, and the pipeline plan is not captured because the water to be pumped “is not part of the extraction process”.
However, in its plan Adani subsequently justifies the need for the pipeline, saying “water is a major component in the production of coal for the operational phase of mining”.
Coal mines can use water to wash coal, suppress dust, cool down and maintain equipment and reduce the risk of fires.
If the federal government was to activate the water trigger, the pipeline would undergo a higher level of scrutiny than that applied by local and state assessments, including input from an independent expert scientific committee.
Labor environment spokesman Tony Burke said Adani’s claim the project did not qualify for the water trigger appeared illogical.
“If [the water] is involved with the mine then by definition it should be referred for assessment,” he said.
“The more I look at this [Carmichael] project and the way the company has dealt with different layers of government the more sceptical I have become.”
The Carmichael mine is likely to feature prominently in the next federal election campaign and the mine’s opponents have called on Labor to use Commonwealth powers to scupper the project should it win government.
The documents also show the pipeline project may hurt local populations of the black throated finch, the squatter pigeon, the ornamental snake and koalas.
An Adani Australia spokeswoman said the pipeline referral to the federal government "relates only to the construction of this infrastructure" and water use is already approved. She said the company was "committed to protecting the environment" during construction of the pipeline.
“Environmental assessments indicate that the North Galilee Water Project is not expected to have a significant impact on flora or fauna in the region," she said.
Lock the Gate Alliance campaign co-ordinator Carmel Flint said the proposal came when “most of central Queensland is in drought” and the effects on other water users and the environment must be considered.
“Adani is apparently trying to sneak through approval for a massive water scheme without a full environmental assessment ... in our view that’s an activity which is absolutely required to go through the water trigger,” she said.
Ms Flint said supplying other mines with water in future would substantially increase the amount extracted.
There has been speculation the Carmichael project will not be built because Adani has struggled to secure private sector finance.
However Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Christian Slattery said the referral of the pipeline project to the federal government “demonstrates that Adani is more committed than ever” to the mine.
"Now, more than ever, we need a rock-solid commitment from our elected representatives that they will ... stop this dangerous mine," he said.