Australia

Australia court overturns approval for giant Carmichael coal mine

Coal trucks in Australia Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Australia is one of the world's biggest coal producers

An Australian court has overturned government approval for Indian company Adani's giant coal mine in Queensland.

The Carmichael mine, approved by the government last year, would have been one of world's biggest coal mines.

Critics challenged the decision in the Federal Court of Australia because of a range of environmental concerns.

The court said on Tuesday that the environment minister had failed to heed advice about threats to vulnerable animal species.

The decision means the mine could not legally operate until fresh approval was granted, according to Sue Higginson, the principal solicitor for the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) in New South Wales (NSW)

Two threatened species

The EDO challenged the government's approval of the mine on behalf of the Mackay Conservation Group.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There were concerns a proposed coal port for the mine would damage the Great Barrier Reef

The conservation advice describes the threats to the survival of two species found only in Queensland, the Yakka Skink and the Ornamental Snake, Ms Higginson said in a statement.

"The law requires that the Minister consider these conservation advices so that he understands the impacts of the decision that he is making on matters of national environmental significance, in this case the threatened species," she said.

The Department of Environment said in a statement that reconsidering the decision would not require revisiting the entire approval process.

"Without pre-empting a final decision about the project, the Department expects that it will take six to eight weeks to prepare its advice and the supporting documentation, and for the Minister to reconsider his final decision," it said.

Massive coal exports

Adani, which has struggled to get financial backing for the project, had also won earlier approval to build a new coal port terminal on the Queensland coast to support exports from the mine.

In a statement, the company said it was regrettable "a technical legal error from the Federal Environment Department has exposed the approval to an adverse decision".

"Adani will await the Minister and his department's timely reconsideration of its approval application ... Adani is confident the conditions imposed on the existing approval are robust and appropriate," it said.

The project would have dug up and exported about 60m tonnes of coal a year, mostly to India.

Environmentalists and reef scientists said work on the port could damage the nearby Great Barrier Reef.

Situated in the Galilee Basin in the central Queensland region, the Carmichael project would have included open cut and underground mines.

There were concerns also the mine, which would require about 12 billion litres of water every year, would drain groundwater supplies in the Galilee Basin.

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