Another legal hurdle to Adani’s $16 billion Carmichael coal mine has fallen after the Federal Court this week dismissed a challenge from the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The decision by Federal Court Justice John Griffiths followed the court’s dismissal earlier this month of a native title claim against the project by a member of the Wangan and Jagalingou people, however three legal challenges remain before the courts.
Adani Australia has flagged a 2017 start to construction for the mine, rail and port components of the project, which will see up to 60Mtpa thermal coal mined in the northern Galilee Basin and exported from its terminal at Abbot Point near Bowen.
The company said it welcomed the latest decision of the Federal Court, which reinforced the stringency of the strict, science and evidence-based federal environmental approval process governing the company’s planned mine at Carmichael, about 160km north-west of Clermont.
“Consistent with earlier decisions of Queensland’s Land Court and the Federal Court affirming the company’s approvals, the Federal Court has determined that due process has been followed,” said the Adani Australia statement.
“At their core, these challenges have been about stopping investment and jobs as part of a wider activist campaign against mining. A recent report by PwC quantified the cost of these delays as being some $3 billion to the economy and over 1600 jobs annually over the first 10 years of the intended projects.”
The company argues that if the coal bound for the Indian energy market is not sourced in Queensland, it will mean lower quality, higher-emitting coal from elsewhere in the world will be used.
The ACF had sought to establish a landmark climate change case, arguing that in approving the project former federal environment minister Greg Hunt had failed to consider the impact that burning the coal produced at Carmichael would have on the environment.
In the wake of Monday’s decision, the group said it would not give up its efforts to stop the mine.
“Most Australians would be shocked that the government can legally approve the biggest coal mine in Australia’s history, when this year the Great Barrier Reef has suffered the worst coral bleaching on record – a direct result of global warming,” ACF chief executive officer Kelly O’Shanassy said.
“If the Carmichael mine proceeds its coal will create 4.7 billion tonnes of climate pollution over the proposed life of the mine, wiping out Australia’s efforts to reduce pollution and contributing to more frequent and severe bleaching events on the reef.
“It is extraordinary that in 2016 a Federal Environment Minister can argue in court that a mega-polluting coal mine will have no impact on the climate and the Great Barrier Reef.”
The ACF called on the new Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg to reconsider the previous minister’s approval of the mine and to “fix Australia’s broken environment laws that allowed such a polluting mine to be approved”.
“We are not giving up,” Ms O’Shanassy said. “Poll after poll shows Australians want a healthy reef, not more polluting coal.
“We’ll do everything we can to stop this mine.”
Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen said the Federal Court win for the Australian Government and Adani meant jobs would flow to places like Mackay, Bowen and Townsville in 2017.
“The Australian Conservation Foundation challenge against the Liberal National Government’s approval of the Adani Carmichael Coal Project has been dismissed by the Federal Court and it’s easy to see why,” he said.
“It was nothing but another frivolous round of legal action by the extreme green movement designed to delay the creation of jobs.
“However they’ve lost, and as a result, we in Central Queensland and North Queensland have won.”
Mr Christiansen said he had raised the issue in a Liberal National Coalition party room meeting in Canberra this week, asking that the Prime Minister take action against any further appeals should they arise.
“That request was met with enthusiasm by my Coalition colleagues and has been well and truly noted by the Prime Minister as well as the Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg,” he said.
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said the Adani coal and infrastructure project had undergone a lengthy approval process, which included 36 of the strictest environmental conditions in Australian history.
“Yet activists continue to run their ideological agenda against the project, despite the economic growth it will bring for regional Australia and the clear benefits it will have in delivering energy security to millions of people in developing countries,” he said.