Indian coal giant Adani told the Queensland Land Court yesterday that a local endangered finch population would not have far to move to avoid decimation when the Carmichael Coal Mine is developed.
Lobby group Coast and Country represented by Saul Holt QC told the court that the mine would cause “correspondingly great” environmental harm, including damage to the Doongmabulla Springs wetlands.
In turn, the mine would also threaten the endangered Black-Throated Finch and the Waxy Cabbage Palm, Holt said.
Adani representation Peter Ambrose QC told the court that environmental offset strategies would exceed legislative requirements, however opposing counsel said this level of management could not be guaranteed.
Holt told the court that Adani’s estimated profits of $12 to $44 billion were “massively overstated” considering 60 per cent falls in the price of coal, and uncertainty of the future economic viability of the resource.
The Black Throated Finch has been in decline since the 1980s, and is listed as an endangered species in both federal and state legislation with only two populations known in the world, one of which is on the site of the proposed Carmichael Mine, the court heard.
Land Services of Coast and Country president Derec Davies said the attitude held by Adani that the endangered birds would simply relocate was simplistic at best.
“We think that this mine represents unacceptable risks and dangers, particularly the ecological risks, and suggesting that the Black-Throated Finch can just fly to a suitable location where it’s not already existing is clearly a misunderstanding of the sensitive nature of this endangered species,” Davies said.
“Our case seeks to highlight the concerns for the Finch and also the threatened Waxy Cabbage Palm, and similarly Adani has said the Palms will be able to happily exist in a new biodiversity offset area, but the area they have proposed is quite large and they don’t already exist there, so there’s no reason to suggest that they would grow there, just as there’s no evidence to suggests the finches could just fly to a new location.
Davies said the case would be the first to bring together all technical information relating to the mine.
"Through this five-week court case and 11 experts it will be the first time all the technical assessments and the facts and circumstances will be brought in front of an assessing body of the Queensland Government,” he said.
Environmental Defenders Queensland chief executive Jo Bragg said the size of the mine would present huge potential for environmental, economic and social problems.
“We really are at a crossroads in our society in terms of fossil fuel and its impacts and this particular case is all about climate change,” she said.
The case was joined last year by Indian environmental group Conservation Action Trust (CAT) as a Level 1 objector, represented by Environmental Justice Australia.
Environmental Justice Australia CEO Brendan Sydes said CAT’s objection was the first instance of an international party objecting to a coal mine in Australia
Australian Mining understands it has also been proposed that the Carmichael Mine could have a negative impact on smaller coal mines in Queensland, an issue which will be explored as the case progresses.