The future of the Carmichael Coal Mine is uncertain in light of a recent Federal Court decision to overturn approvals.
In a case led by the Mackay Conservation Group, represented by the Environmental Legal Centre EDO NSW, Federal Court justice Anna Katzman set aside the federal approval granted on 24 June 2014.
Principal solicitor Sue Higginson said the decision was based on a failure by federal environment minister Greg Hunt to regard conservation advice about two endangered species, the yakka skink and the ornamental snake.
“The conservation advices were approved by the Minister in April last year, and describe the threats to the survival of these threatened species, which are found only in Queensland,” she said.
“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.”
Independent social advocacy group GetUp described the rejection as a win.
"Today confirmed what we knew all along," senior campaigner Sam Regester told Australian Mining.
"These approvals were rushed in by a minister that was too close to Adani.
"There were no approvals for this, no dredging approvals, and financial issues," he said.
However, Regester went on to state: "We have no confidence in Hunt that he'll outright reject the mine, but it's what he needs to do if he wants to be taken seriously as the 'environment minister'."
Carmichael developer Adani Mining said the reason for the federal court decision was based on a technicality.
“It is regrettable that a technical legal error from the Federal Environment Department has exposed the approval to an adverse decision,” a spokesperson said.
“It should be noted the approval did include appropriate conditions to manage the species protection of the yakka skink and ornamental snake.
“However, we have been advised that, because certain documents were not presented by the Department in finalising the approval, it created a technical legal vulnerability that is better to address now.
“Adani is confident the conditions imposed on the existing approval are robust and appropriate once the technicality is addressed.”
The Queensland Resources Council CEO Michael Roche leapt to the defence of Adani, claiming the case was simply delaying tactics employed by anti-mining activists “straight out of their playbook, Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom”.
“It is preposterous that a technical administrative hitch could hold up billions of dollars in investment and thousands of desperately needed jobs,” Roche said.
“Adani’s environmental approval did include conditions to manage the protection of the yakka skink and ornamental snake, however due to an administrative error by the Commonwealth Department of Environment, the approval has been set aside.”
Solicitor Sue Higginson also said Hunt had failed to consider global greenhouse emissions from the burning of the coal, and Adani’s environmental history.
“However these matters are left unresolved before the Court,” she said.
“It will be up to the minister now to decide whether or not to approve the mine again, taking into account the conservation advices and any other information on the impacts of the project.”
Slider image: Angus McNab