An Asia-headquartered resource company will enjoy a more seamless approval process for its $21.7 billion coal project in Central Queensland, following amendments to groundwater legislation.
State Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles recently amended a proposed Bill that effectively removes the need for proponents to provide a public notification period for underground water assessments, provided they meet a strict criteria. This could prevent unnecessary delays in the approval process for Adani Australia’s Carmichael Coal Mine, Rail and Port Project, which is promised to create up to 10,000 jobs.
The decision comes after the mine has been targeted by conservation groups, who claim the emissions from the mine’s coal will contribute to climate change.
All mines currently under development in Queensland that will have an impact on groundwater will be required to obtain an associated water licence under laws passed in Parliament.
Miles says the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 allows the State Government to fulfil its commitment to reverse earlier laws that sought to deregulate the mining industry and give them an “unlimited right to take”.
“Queensland’s environment has been under threat from a ticking time-bomb – reckless laws passed which were left waiting to commence automatically on December 6,” he says.
“After lengthy debate, the threat to the environment and rural communities created by those laws has been defused.”
Miles said all mining projects that have already advanced in their approvals process would also be required to obtain an associated water licence.
He moved an amendment, strengthening the expertise and knowledge between regulators dealing with water issues by ensuring the Director-General of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) consulted with the Director-General of the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) before making a decision on an associated water licence.
“I’m pleased with this step towards linking the important work by my colleagues in DNRM and my own agency,” Miles says.
“I will direct the Director-General of EHP that he is to form his opinion regarding groundwater impacts to be based on advice from an independent panel. The panel will be formed by the Director-General of EHP and Director-General of DNRM and will consist of the Queensland Chief Scientist and three other members qualified in the law, public administration and natural resource matters.
“Parliament also agreed that if a court has already delivered its judgement after completing its exhaustive cross-examination of the groundwater impacts of a mine and determined there is no impediment to the mine proceeding, that there is no benefit in the courts once again repeating that scrutiny”.
Dr Miles says future mining projects will have the environmental impacts of their groundwater take initially assessed under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 as part their environmental authority application.