On The Money

Australia Approves Controversial Mine, Sets Strict Conditions

The Australian Government has approved one of the largest and most controversial mines to be built in Queensland. The Carmichael coal mine by India’s Adani Mining, however, will be subject to the country’s strictest conditions.

Open Pit MiningEnvironmental Concerns

The approval was signed last October 14 by Australia’s Environment Minister after a long running debate between those for and against the mine. In a statement the following day, he said, “I have the power to suspend or revoke the approval and struck penalties apply if there is a breach of the strict conditions.” These conditions, he explained, were “36 of the strictest conditions in Australian History.”

The Carmichael project was first proposed in 2010, and is currently worth around A$16 bn. The mine will dig up and transport about 60 million tons of coal a year for export, with the majority heading to India.

Its controversial nature is due to its sheer size, which will cover an area seven times the size of Sydney Harbour. It also includes a railway project that was approved by the government just last year.

Critics, however, were not impressed, saying that the decision itself was “grossly irresponsible.” They challenged the approval of the mine in Federal Court, as the project will threaten two already vulnerable animal species living in the area — the Ornamental Snake and the Yakka Skink.

The Court also found that Mr. Hunt had failed to heed advice about the possible threat to these two reptile species, saying that the approval itself was rushed.

Extremely Strict Conditions

Mr. Hunt, however, clarified in a succeeding statement that he had indeed taken note of the potential environmental threats, as well as the “issues raised by the community and ensure that the proponent must meet the highest environmental standards.”

MiningAmong the conditions Adani will have to meet to maintain their mining operation is the protection and improvement of over 31,000 hectares of special wildlife habitat, and around A$1m of funding for research programs that will improve the conservation of the aforementioned reptile species over the next ten years.

Adani welcomed the statement along with the strict conditions, stating in an email that it “makes clear that these concerns have been addressed, reflected in rigorous and painstaking conditions.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation, however, was not as optimistic regarding the assurances from both parties. ACF president Geoff Cousins said, “To approve a massive coal mine that would make species extinct, deplete 297 billion liters of precious groundwater and produce 128.4 million tons of CO2 a year is grossly irresponsible.”

He added, “At a time when the world is desperately seeking cleaner energy options, this huge coal mine will make the effort to combat climate change all the more difficult.”