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Mining leases approved for Adani's project in Australia

Indian mining giant Adani today moved one step closer to realising its 21.7 billion dollars coal mine in Australia after the local government granted three mining leases for the controversy-hit project. Queensland minister for
PTI April 03, 2016 10:29 IST

Indian mining giant Adani today moved one step closer to realising its 21.7 billion dollars coal mine in Australia after the local government granted three mining leases for the controversy-hit project.

Queensland minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham approved the individual lease grant for 70441 Carmichael, 70505 Carmichael East and 70506 Carmichael North, which are estimated to contain 11 billion tonnes of thermal coal, media reports said.

According to state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, the approval had undergone "extensive government and community scrutiny" and were a step towards securing jobs for region, with more than 5,000 jobs expected to be generated during construction and more than 4,000 during operation.

"I know the people of north and central Queensland will welcome this latest progress for the potential jobs and economic development it brings closer for their communities," she said.

She said "stringent conditions would continue to protect the environment, landholders' and traditional owners' interests and Great Barrier Reef".

Lynham confirmed no dredging at Abbot Point would take place until Adani had demonstrated financial closure.

Over 200 conditions apply to the project which, if it goes ahead, would be the largest coal mine in Australia.

"The mine's environmental authority had about 140 conditions to protect local flora and fauna, groundwater and surface water resources, as well as controls on dust and noise," Lynham said adding, "A further 99 stringent and wide-ranging conditions apply to the rail and port elements of the project."

The project now has 19 permits and approvals at all three levels of government, including nine primary approvals from the state and federal government.

"A number of other steps have to be completed before mine construction can start," Lynham said.

"They include secondary approvals for rail, port facilities, power, water, roadworks and the airport and a financial assurance with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

"The independent Coordinator-General will continue to work with Adani to progress the project," he said.

The latest approvals have come after Adani secured final environmental approval and had reached an agreement on compensation with a landholder last month.

Adani's plan to build one of the world's biggest coal mines in Australia has been hampered time and again. A federal court in August last year had revoked the original approval due to environmental concerns.

In October last year, the project got a new lease of life after the Australian government gave its re-approval.

Welcoming the latest approvals, Adani said, "The granting of a mining lease helps deliver the company certainty with respect to timelines, while moving to the next phase of the project, subject to the resolution of legal challenges by politically-motivated activists." 

"Adani has consistently said that what is required for its projects to proceed is certainty on approvals. This is key approval helps provide that with respect to Carmichael," the company said in a statement.

"Absent additional legal challenges designed to delay progress on this export-creating mine, the next phase of the project, following this key approval, will see a return to the pre-engineering work that had to be suspended in 2015 with the loss of certainty on approvals timelines that had occurred at that time," Adani said.

"Concurrent with that, the company will continue to finalise second tier approvals, with the clear aim of commencing construction in calendar year 2017."

"In the coming months, Adani and its partners will provide additional detail regarding the next steps for the logistics and labour requirements of the project," it said.

"It is important to note that successive legal challenges to science-based approvals, which are the strictest of their kind for a major resources project in this country, are designed to deny the job creating benefits of the company’s mine, rail and port projects to our state.

"It is for this reason that conclusion of second tier approvals and resolution of politically-motivated legal challenges is the company's principal focus, prior to a final investment decision being made, it said.

Having previously sought to progress to the construction phase in 2015, Adani is keenly aware of the risks of proceeding on major works in advance of the conclusion of these matters. Delivering low ash, low sulphur, lower emitting coal to thermal generators in India, while delivering jobs in regions crying out for them, and taxes and royalties to Queensland, is paramount," Adani said.

Meanwhile, the latest state government decision has been severely criticised by the environmental activists.

According to Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Queensland Government's approval of a mining lease while the Great Barrier Reef was suffering its worst bleaching in over a decade was indefensible.

"There is no question that the Reef is suffering right now. Coral scientists, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and even the Queensland Government have acknowledged the severity of this latest bleaching," said Shani Tager, Greenpeace Australia Pacific's Reef Campaigner.

"This decision is appalling. The Great Barrier Reef is World Heritage-listed because it is a natural wonder of the world, and right now its most pristine areas are suffering from bleaching because the waters are too warm."

Moira Williams, campaigner with 350 Australia, said,     "As global temperatures hit terrifying levels and the Reef turns a deathly white, the absurdity of Anastacia Paluszczuk’s Government approving this monstrous coal project cannot be understated."
Last week, the Finance minister Arun jaitley on his official visit to Australia denied reports that the issue of Adani's project was on his agenda.

Sources said that during his meeting with Australian energy minister Josh Frydenberg on last Friday, Jaitley was informed that the federal government was fully in support for the Adani project in the state.