/Adani approval could be the last decision of Morrison Government

Adani approval could be the last decision of Morrison Government

Updated

April 08, 2019 15:38:48

Adani’s controversial mine awaits its final Federal approval this week, days before the election is called.

Key points:

  • Only one significant approval remains for Federal Government to approve Adani mine
  • Securing sign-off before the federal election is called would mean Queensland MPs in marginal seats could campaign on the issue
  • Queensland State Government still has two outstanding approvals

Approval from the Environment Minister, Melissa Price, is one of the final hurdles before the project can commence.

And pressure is growing from some of her colleagues for her to approve the mine so Queensland MPs can talk up the project during the election campaign.

This is the latest on what exactly is needed before the Adani mine can go ahead.

Federal groundwater hurdle

The last major federal environmental approval required is around how the mine will affect the local water system.

It’s formally called the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan (GDEMP).

The Federal Government has asked the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia to assess the plan, but the decision to approve or deny the plan rests with the Environment Minister.

It’s not clear what these organisations have concluded, but a spokesperson for the Department of Environment told the ABC the department “has provided its assessment” to the Minister.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday the Government would be “relying on the scientific evidence”.

The ABC has previously reported the CSIRO had found flaws in the plan.

Request for comment has been sought from the Federal Minister’s office.

State groundwater obstacle

Even if the Federal Government was to approve the plan, Adani would still require the Queensland Government to sign off before the project could proceed.

The State Government has previously sought the CSIRO report commissioned by the Federal Government but it has still not received it.

Queensland Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch told the ABC the pressure was on the Federal Government.

“Right now, the ones in the way of this project are in Canberra,” she said.

“The Department of Environment and Science can’t progress its assessment of Adani’s groundwater report until the Federal Government gives the CSIRO report to them.”

An Adani Mining spokesperson said that “over the past two years we have been working constructively with both the Australian and Queensland Governments to finalise the outstanding [plan]”.

Black-throated finch sign-off

Australia’s largest population of the black-throated finch is found at the planned location of the mine.

A plan to protect the finch is required in order for the mine to proceed.

It has already received Federal sign-off, but discussions at state level between Adani and the Queensland Government have stalled.

The plan has been sent for review by a panel of experts that Adani argued was not independent.

Adani’s spokesperson said it was continuing to work with Queensland’s Government “to finalise” the plan.

These negotiations may accelerate if the groundwater plan is signed off.

Why has this become an issue this week?

The Adani project promises to deliver jobs for Queensland, the state with eight seats held by Coalition MPs with margins of 4 per cent or less.

However, the mine enjoys less support in other parts of the country, making the issue difficult for the Coalition party room.

According to an article in the Courier Mail on Monday, Queensland LNP senator James McGrath warned Environment Minister Melissa Price that he would publicly call for her resignation if she failed to treat the Adani project fairly. Senator McGrath has been contacted for comment.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said today “there is a fair bit of enthusiasm” for the project in central Queensland but that the approval was a decision for Minister Price.

“She needs to make the right decision,” he told reporters in Coffs Harbour.

“Sometimes decisions of this nature take a long time, sometimes they can do them as a matter of course.”

Once the federal election is called, the Government goes into “caretaker” mode, during which major decisions — such as approvals for the Adani mine — are avoided.

The election is expected to be called within the next two weeks.

Labor leader Bill Shorten — who may be Prime Minister by June — has said he would respect the decision to build the mine but that he “doesn’t like” it.

What happens if the approvals are granted?

Adani claims it has equipment and staff on site and is ready to commence construction as soon as the management plans are finalised.

Although the finch and groundwater plans are the major hurdles for Adani, there may be other hold-ups.

The head of the Environmental Defenders’ Office in Queensland, lawyer Jo-Anne Bragg, said these include clearing permits, development applications and approvals under the Environmental Protection Act for major offsite infrastructure.

“Adani also need to secure appropriate land tenure for offsite infrastructure areas including the airport,” she said.

“They also need to gain approvals related to the mine’s water supply, which is crucial for the commencement of construction at the site.”

Topics:

government-and-politics,

coal,

mining-environmental-issues,

mining-industry,

australia

First posted

April 08, 2019 15:05:18