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Adani has hit a legal setback in the federal arena on the eve of a Queensland Government deadline to finalise approvals for its Galilee Basin coal mine site.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) won a Federal Court appeal against the assessment of Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme, with the Federal Government conceding the case, admitting it failed to consider public submissions and even lost some submissions.

But an Adani spokeswoman said last night that the North Galilee Water Scheme was not required for the company to commence construction of the Carmichael mine and rail project.

A critical State Department of Environment and Science decision is expected today (June 13) on the separate groundwater management plan for the project.

This would not only pave the way for work to start on the Carmichael mine and an associated rail link, but is expected to act as a stepping stone to open up the resource-rich Galilee Basin – with players including Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal, MacMines and GVK Hancock waiting in the wings with their own major coal projects.

Failure to apply proper process

Meanwhile ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said the case involving the 
North Galilee Water Scheme showed that the Federal Government had failed to properly scrutinise Adani’s mine proposal.

“With this concession the government admitted it comprehensively failed to apply proper process when former Environment Minister Melissa Price assessed Adani’s plans to take up to 12.5 billion litres of water from the Suttor River in outback Queensland to service its mine,” she said.

Legal setback on Adani water scheme
ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy.

“The government conceded it did not properly consider more than 2000 public submissions from Australians with concerns about the mine and the water scheme. It also admitted to losing submissions.

“The government is fundamentally failing to properly apply national environment laws to its approvals for Adani’s mine and has been ignoring deep public concern about the mine’s environmental impact.”

The North Galilee Water Scheme is a proposal for a 110km water supply pipeline to the Carmichael mine site from a dam used to store water harvested from the Belyando/Suttor River catchment.

Proposal back before new Environment Minister

Adani’s water use proposal must now go to the new Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, and be re-opened for public comment.

An Adani spokeswoman said the Federal Court consent orders related to advice from the Department of Environment and Energy that they had identified ‘a potential record-keeping administrative error’.

“The Department of Environment and Energy has subsequently, with the consent and agreement of all other parties, indicated to us that it was appropriate for the decision to be set aside and remitted to the Minister to remake the decision,” she said.

Consequently we are engaging with the Department of Environment and Energy in relation to next steps.

The ACF said that in deciding the assessment process for the water scheme under Australia’s national environment law, then Environment Minister Melissa Price had elected not to apply the ‘water trigger’, a process designed to scrutinise the impact large coal and coal seam gas projects have on water.

June 13 deadline for State approval

The State Department of Environment and Science was last month given deadlines to finalise its approvals process for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine.

June 13 was the deadline to reach a determination on a groundwater management plan for the Galilee Basin site.

Adani Australia said last night it had provided everything required of it towards a decision being finalised.