Adani has declared it’s full steam ahead for its controversial coal mine after the Queensland government issued the final approval the company needs to begin construction.
Queensland’s environment department has signed off on the company’s plan to manage groundwater on and around its Galilee basin mine site.
“Construction can now begin,” Adani said in a tweet shortly after the announcement.
The department said it had approved the most recent version of the plan, which Adani submitted just one day ago.
But it said the document was “robust”, and the result of the best available science and regular meetings.
The department said it was satisfied Adani had established the main aquifer that feeds the ancient Doongmabulla Springs Complex, near the edge of the mining lease.
But the company has been told it must do more work to establish if any other aquifers feed the springs, which some water experts have warned could permanently dry out if the mine proceeds.
Adani has also been told it must ramp up water monitoring within the springs complex. And it must use a bore in a layer of claystone that separates the springs from the mine, so there’s an early warning trigger for dangerous water-level drops.
Mine opponents have reacted with fury, declaring the fight against the mine is not over.
Greens Senator for Queensland Larissa Waters accused the state Labor government of caving in to pressure from the coal lobby and donors.
She said there were “serious concerns from water experts, farmers and traditional owners about sucking water & ancient springs dry”.
“Donors and politics trumped science, but the fight is not over!” she tweeted.
Tom Crothers, a former general manager for water allocation and planning in the Queensland government, accused Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of pressuring bureaucrats to approve the plan.
Ms Palaszczuk stepped in last month, demanding approval deadlines be set, after Labor was thumped at the federal election in Queensland electorates that want Adani‘s jobs.
“Science has been thrown in the bin for political expediency,” said Mr Crothers, who worked in government for 35 years before leaving in 2011.
State Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the decision was made solely by her department, and cabinet members had nothing to do with it.
“Today’s decision as per the environmental protection act, was not and could not be made by me, or anyone else in the cabinet. It has been made by the regulator and is backed by expert advice,” she said.
Some water experts claim Adani has grossly underestimated the mine’s impacts on groundwater, and fear the effects of its permit to pump water out of the mine to allow for the safe extraction of coal.
Hydrologists from four Australian universities issued a joint report earlier this week, saying Adani‘s water science was “severely flawed”.
They warned the mine could seal the fate of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex, and the plant and animal species that rely on them.