The Queensland environment department has officially signed on Adani Mine’s plans to manage groundwater on and around the company’s Galilee Basin mine site amidst on-going issues regarding safety end environmental concerns.
The latest decision comes after massive public outcry against Adani’s plans of constructing a coal mine in central Queensland. Environmentalists and water experts pointed out that the mine could result to permanently drying up an ancient springs complex, and have dire effects on the health of the Carmichael River. Moreover, the approval comes after intense pressure on the Queensland government after the public addressed that it was a rushed decision before federal elections.
In a statement, however, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science said its decision had been based on a “rigorous” assessment. “Adani submitted its most recent version of the plan, addressing the department’s feedback, yesterday,” the department said. “The assessment has been based on the best available science,” they added.
Queensland granted Adani a water license that allows its mine unlimited access to groundwater for 60 years.
Adani will now begin construction on its future mine site. Particularly, land-clearing and road access development. But Adani will still need to secure other federal environmental approvals before it can begin extracting coal from the location. At the moment, Adani still needs to obtain eight more compliance from different sectors.
Australia is no stranger to coal mining corporations, especially Queensland, who’s abundant with coal resources within its domain. Specifically, Carmichael is the most viable source of coal in the Galilee Basin.
The Galilee Basin is about the size of Victoria and contains one of the world’s largest untapped deposits of thermal coal — the type used to make electricity.
The mine, which is proposed by Adani Mining (a subsidiary of India’s Adani Group), is meant to establish its coal mine but poses environmental concerns such as the impact on water at the Doongmabulla Springs, a wetland desert oasis.
The fundamental concern involves contamination of nearby rivers, lakes, and aquifers by what comes out of a coal mine—usually highly acidic water containing heavy metals like arsenic, copper, and lead. Particularly for Andani, it could seep through nearby aquifers supplying the springs.
Water is an essential resource during coal extraction; in fact, it ensures a safe extraction process. According to mining industry data, companies use 800-3000 gallons of water to mine and process and transport one ton of coal. According to the US Geological Survey, 410 billion gallons of water are withdrawn from rivers, lakes, streams, and aquifer each day in the U.S.
Specific in Australia, such supplies account for nearly a third of our total water consumption, according to Geoscience Australia. Competitors for the water to be used by the Adani mine include local towns and the region’s farmers.
“The state government notes that [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation] CSIRO and Geoscience Australia both raised concerns about the groundwater impacts. (The state government had been asking their federal counterparts for the CSIRO report for a month – only to receive it less than half an hour before Minister Price announced her approval,” says The Sydney Morning Herald.
Adani is set to take immediate actions towards the recent approval. However, hydrologists from four Australian universities issued a joint report earlier this week, saying Adani’s water science was “severely flawed”.
According to their analysis on Adani’s water solution, it could potentially lead to permanently drying the Doongmabulla Springs Complex, 8km from the edge of Adani’s mining lease.
Tom Crothers, a former general manager for water allocation and planning in the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, also emphasized that the state government had no clue what the cumulative impact would be if the Adani mine and eight others planned for the Galilee basin went ahead.