Adani’s Carmichael coal mine faces just one last hurdle to negotiate, and could be under construction within weeks, after the Queensland Labor Government approved the mine’s management plan for the endangered Black-throated finch.
The approval was referred to the Queensland Government’s Coordinator-General for because of the potential for mining developments in the Galilee basin, including the Adani mine, substantially impacting on the endangered black-throated finch’s habitat.
The Queensland Government has granted approval for the black-throated finch management plan, despite the Department of Environment and Science rejecting an earlier version of the plan less than a month ago, saying that Adani’s plan was in adequate.
According to the Department of Environment and Science, the Carmichael mine site represents Australia’s most significant population of the Black-throated finch.
Adani’s Black-throated Finch Management Plan underwent an expert review, which received submissions from researchers outlining why Adani’s plan was deeply inadequate.
Researchers are sceptical that Adani could have may any substantial improvements to the management plans between its previous rejection and today’s approval.
“This has not been a scientific process” Dr April Reside, researcher at the University of Queensland told RenewEconomy.
“All of the remaining habitat for the black-throated finch is at threat, and the level of development encroaching on the species is not slowing down. The finch cannot survive in an environmental offset.”
“We see the finch having the greatest foraging success in a mixed species flock, feeding with other species of finch, swallows and chats. There is a hypothesis that the decline in bird populations in the region is related to the breakdown of these communities of species” Reside added.
Up to 29,000 hectares of habitat for the black throated finch will be cleared during the development of the mining sites, raising fears amongst environmental groups that the mines will push the bird species to extinction.
“The black-throated finch is now found in only 12 per cent of its historical range and coal mines approved between 2012 and 2015 will damage or degrade most of the high quality black-throated finch habitat that’s left,” Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Christian Slattery said.
“The area earmarked for Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine is home to the largest known population of black-throated finches and some of the best remaining habitat. To stop the black-throated finch from going extinct we need to stop ripping up its habitat for dirty new coal mines.”
As a condition of the approval, Adani as agreed to support research into the black-throated finch, including a population studies and to put in place management practises to protect the black-throated finch population in the nearby Ten Mile Bore area.
“DES is also satisfied that Adani will engage appropriately qualified ecologists to undertake the company’s survey and monitoring work in relation to the Black-throated finch.” The Queensland Department of Environment and Science said in a statement.
One last environmental hurdle exists for the Adani mine; approval for the mine’s ‘Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan’ is required from the Queensland Government before the Adani mine can proceed.
The Adani Carmichael mine is set to become Australia’s largest coal mine, with approval to produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal annually, and 2.3 billion tonnes over the life of the mine.
If burnt, coal from the Adani mine will contribute an additional 4.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, roughly eight times Australia’s total annual emissions.
The Climate Council has estimated that if the Adani mine was its own country, its coal production would lead it to rank amongst the world’s top 15 countries by greenhouse gas emissions.
A decision on the approval for the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Management Plan, is expected to be made no later than 13 June, and will effectively provide the greenlight for construction of the mine to proceed.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk put pressure on Adani and the Queensland Coordinator-General to expedite the approval process, demanding that final sign off be granted within weeks, taking the re-election of the Morrison government as a signal that Queensland voters wanted the mine to go ahead.
“[the Federal] election result only added to the message we were already hearing from our local members and community leaders that jobs are the number one priority for Queenslanders.”
The accelerated process has been welcomed by Adani, with CEO Lucas Dow feeling encouraged by the swift action being taken by the Queensland Government to finalise the final environmental assessments.
“We are encouraged that the Queensland Government has met the recently-announced timeframe to finalise the plan. This brings our project a step closer to construction and to delivering much-needed jobs for regional Queenslanders.” Dow said.
Former Federal environment Minister Melissa Price gave sign off on approvals for groundwater management plans for the project in the last days before the parliament was dissolved before the election.
Adani will be required to provide amended ground water management plans to the government, as part of conditions placed on the Federal approvals, but with the re-election of the Morrison Government, this is unlikely to be a substantive obstacle for the project.
The Adani project has faced criticism for its environmental impact, its contribution to global emissions and as well as claims that the economic benefits of the project have been overstated.
According to analysis prepared for Adani, the Carmichael Mine is set to create up to 1,464 construction jobs, and around 100 ongoing positions, although some have questioned this due to the level of automation, and also point to the potential loss of jobs in other coal areas impacted by the Adani mine taking their share of exports.
A reduction in the size of the initial stages of the mine may further reduce the overall number of jobs created by the mine.