Melbourne: Adani’s controversy-hit $21.7-billion (Rs 1.4 lakh crore at $1 = Rs 66.26) coal mine project in Australia on Sunday won three mining leases, but the Indian mining giant said final decision on investment will be taken only after the conclusion of “politically-motivated” legal challenges against one of the world’s largest mines.
Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham approved the individual lease grant for the 70441 Carmichael, 70505 Carmichael East and 70506 Carmichael North mines, which are estimated to contain 11 billion tonnes of thermal coal.
According to state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, the approvals 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.
“Stringent conditions would continue to protect the environment, landholders’ and traditional owners’ interests and Great Barrier Reef,” she said.
Mr Lynham confirmed no dredging at Abbot Point would take place until Adani 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,” Mr 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,” Mr Lynham said.
“They include secondary approvals for rail, port facilities, power, water, road works 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.
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.
“Concurrent with that, the company will continue to finalise second tier approvals, with the clear aim of commencing construction in calendar year 2017.”
“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.
Last week, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on his official visit to Australia denied reports that the Adani project issue was on his agenda. (Read: Adani coal project not on agenda of Australia visit, says Jaitley)
Sources said that during his meeting with Australian energy minister Josh Frydenberg last Friday, Mr Jaitley was informed that the federal government was fully in support for the Adani project in the state.
Meanwhile, the latest state government decision has been severely criticised by environmental activists.
According to Greenpeace Australia Pacific, the Queensland government’s approval of a mining lease while the Great Barrier Reef was suffering its worst bleaching in over a decade was indefensible.
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.