Adani’s contentious combined project fast-tracked as “critical infrastructure”
10 October 2016
Update 3/11/2016: EDO Qld have launched a report, recommending that the Queensland Government revoke the broad ‘prescribed project’ and ‘critical infrastructure’ powers granted to the Coordinator-General for Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine and associated infrastructure (read more here).
On Friday 7 October 2016, Minister for State Development, Anthony Lynham, declared that Adani’s Carmichael coal mine and the related rail and water infrastructure projects are a “prescribed project” and a “critical infrastructure project” under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (Qld).
These two declarations together give the Coordinator-General extraordinary powers to speed up and take control of the approvals still required for the contentious massive Carmichael mine to proceed. Perhaps the most significant consequence is that these two declarations strip away most normal powers of the Queensland Courts to review and determine the lawfulness of decisions made by the Coordinator-General. The critical infrastructure declaration also leaves landholders far more exposed to compulsory acquisition of their land for infrastructure easements, such as will be required for the rail corridor and possible water supply infrastructure.
Given the important revelations about the serious impacts of the massive Carmichael Mine that have emerged from earlier court proceedings, particularly in the Queensland Land Court, it is unfortunate that the Minister has chosen to undermine judicial oversight of these projects.
Evidence in the Land Court demonstrated that Adani had overstated the number of jobs likely to be created by the project, which were initially suggested by Adani to be 10,000 but ultimately shown to be 1,464 pa over the life of the project. The Land Court processes also revealed the extent of the likely impacts on the endangered Black-throated Finch and the threatened ecosystem of the Doongmabulla Springs, which have exceptional ecological value. This shows the great value of independent scrutiny of this contentious massive thermal coal proposal.
Under existing law, Adani still requires a water licence for the groundwater impacted by the mine. But these declarations give the Coordinator-General power to shortcut the process of assessing the impacts of this thermal coal mine and prevent most scrutiny by the Courts. Groundwater rights are under consideration in Queensland Parliament now in the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. This critical infrastructure declaration makes community rights proposed under that Bill much, much weaker.
In 2007 parts of the SE Qld Water Grid were declared critical infrastructure when our water supplies were at very low levels. So it is most unusual for a private mining development, let alone a contentious project such as the Carmichael Mine, to be declared as “critical infrastructure”.