Queensland mega-coal mine approval overturned by Federal Court

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Federal Court rules environment minister Greg Hunt failed to properly assess environmental impacts of proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

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The Australian coal mining plans of Indian conglomerate Adani are hanging by a thread, after the Federal Court ruled that the development of what would be Australia’s largest coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin had not been properly assessed for its environmental impact.

In a case brought by Mackay Conservation Group and funded by GetUp!, lawyers from the Environment Defenders Office argued that Coalition environment minister Greg Hunt had incorrectly assessed the proposed Carmichael coal mine’s climate and environment impacts, ignoring both the advice of his own Department, and the poor environmental record of Adani.

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Principal solicitor, Sue Higginson, said the Court ruled in favor of setting aside the Carmichael mine’s federal approval, based on Hunt’s failure to factor in conservation advice for two Commonwealth-listed vulnerable species.

According to the Mackay Conservation Group, Hunt himself conceded to the Court that he had failed in his duty to properly assess the Carmichael mine project in accordance with his obligations under federal environmental legislation.

“It is now up to the Minister to decide whether or not to approve the mine, taking into account the conservation advice and any other information on the impacts of the project,” said Higginson on Wednesday.

This time last year, Hunt described the proponents of the legal challenge against the Carmichael mine as being “against electricity.”

“At the end of the day, this is about providing electricity to up to 100 million people in India,” he said about the Adani proposal, in an interview with right wing columnist Andrew Bolt.

“Obviously, there’s an enormous benefit for Australian families and communities. But, in India, where 100 million people can be lifted out of poverty, where there can be electricity for hospitals and schools, of course the hard left, the extreme left, are silent about that, they effectively demonise the people that are bringing folk out of poverty, and I think it’s time that they have an honest conversation.”

This week’s Federal Court ruling comes just weeks after the financial viability of the project – which has been under serious doubt almost since its inception, and was recently named the world’s third most controversial project – was even further undermined by a leaked Treasury report that flagged the coal mine proposal, along with the expansion of nearby Abbott Point port facility and the building of rail infrastructure, as an ‘economic basket case’.

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9 Comments
  1. Chris Fraser 3 years ago

    Yesss ! And for MCG, GetUp and EDO, thank you and praise for your efforts !

  2. disqus_3PLIicDhUu 3 years ago

    One word YEESSSSS

  3. john 3 years ago

    Besides the failure to meet the guidelines as outlined in the article, the mine does not have an economic basis to proceed.
    Cost to land coal anywhere outside Australia would be $70 plus a tonne.
    If thermal coal is below that figure for best quality x Newcastle and Carmichael is not as good how does it stack up?
    Present futures price as in here http://www.barchart.com/commodityfutures/ICE_NewCastle_Coal_Futures/LQ

    • Mike Dill 3 years ago

      More importantly, that landed coal has a higher FUEL cost per MWH when compared to the amortized cost of wind or solar. Hayworth only runs because the current extraction cost is nearly zero, so the cost per MWH is about A$25. If you needed to amortize a new plant it would be about A$90/MWH or more, and not worth building as wind an solar are already less expensive.

    • Ronald Brakels 3 years ago

      Thanks for that link, John. While future prices are just future prices and we can’t be certain where prices will go, they are the best predictors that humanity has been able to come up with. There’s just something about losing money if you buy a future contract at the wrong price that sharpens the mind when it comes to prognostication. And we see that the consensus is that there will be no increase in coal prices as far as the market goes, all the way out till the end of 2021. Why it’s almost as if all those people giving quotes to the Australian on how the thermal coal export market will soon pick up are at odds with our known best predictor of the future. Maybe they are using a different prediction method, such as examining bird entrails or reading their stars in the back of the newspaper.

      • john 3 years ago

        It is possible that thermal prices may pick up however because of the ever decreasing lower in cost of Renewables this presents a problem for the carbon based industry because they have to pay a price for the supply chain, even if totally discounted by government provided, there is still a cost to access .
        As to future market they are governed by demand and supply I would expect that the futures for Thermal Coal would not exactly look bright I would say be cautious please.

  4. mick 3 years ago

    yay

  5. Mark Roest 3 years ago

    Ignoring the enormous DAMAGE to farmers and families from the coal project, let’s just rub it in about the lies and smokescreens in “But, in India, where 100 million people can be lifted out of poverty, where there can be electricity for hospitals and schools, of course the hard left, the extreme left, are silent about that, they effectively demonise the people that are bringing folk out of poverty, and I think
    it’s time that they have an honest conversation.”
    Let’s make the conversation truly honest by noting that the Modi government has turned away from coal, and it, too is planning enormous investments in solar energy. After all, if the Indian solar farms are amortized in 5 to 10 years, which is entirely possible, and with the requisite number of hours of battery storage at the soon-to-be-less-than $200 per kWh, they can stop all fossil fuel imports, and electricity will be essentially free — as in free beer!
    Not only that, but instead of running huge centralized grid extensions to those villages Hunt claims to care so much about, they will simply put in distributed solar and smart microgrids in the villages, and free-standing small solar systems for dispersed farmers. Again, because the energy source will be free, and the hardware paid for in a few years, farmers can use the savings on kerosene to pay for small amounts of it, and the opportunities to use electricity productively to totally transform their lives to pay for the rest, as they enjoy new-found prosperity.
    The bottom line truth is probably that the coal crooks would take the money and run, leaving their stranded assets behind, when both India and China no longer want any Aussie coal, ‘and thanks for asking’, and the will of the people prevails in Australia as well, taking advantage of its huge renewable energy supplies.
    The understanding beneath the bottom line is that India and China have both had way too much of being colonized, know it when they see it, and are extirpating it. In other words, drastic reductions in imports of flawed goods from western nations, whether they be GMOs, coal, or pharmaceuticals. They can make their own goods, and their own clean energy. And help save the planet by starting the process of decarbonizing, while they’re at it. Such an example!

  6. Peter Campbell 3 years ago

    Did I read correctly that the arguments put were that Hunt had not properly considered a range of environmental concerns (all the obvious big ones), but the court decided that he had failed to consider the effect on two particular vulnerable species? Did the court not consider those other arguments relevant, or only not necessary? If further consideration of those two species showed that the mine would not be a serious problem for them, can Hunt then approve?

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