The Queensland Government’s latest amendments to groundwater protection rules are creating an unlikely agreement between industry and environmental activists that the changes need a serious rethink.
Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) recently launched a petition that opposes the groundwater legislation that effectively exempts India-headquartered Adani Australia’s $20.7 billion Carmichael Coal Project from the normal public submission and appeals processes on groundwater.
“We are asking you to join us, and tell the Queensland Government to stop making special rules for Adani … Premier [Annastacia] Palaszczuk should ensure that the impacts of this project on our precious and irreplaceable groundwater resources are thoroughly scrutinised,” EDO Qld CEO and solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg says.
“Queensland farmers, traditional owners and other landholders, our ancient springs and precious ecosystems all dependent on our groundwater. [They] are relying on you to properly assess the groundwater and all other potential impacts of this massive coal mine.”
New Hope Group (NHG) firmly rejects the State Government’s comments that the New Acland Stage 3 Project will need to apply for an associated water licence.
“The New Acland Mine (NAC) holds a number of water licenses for current stage-two operations. These water licences were granted under the Water Act 2000,” NHG spokesperson Cathy Uechtritz says.
“The Associated Water Licence that NAC is now required to get under the EPOLA Bill is very different to the Water Licence that NAC had to get under the Water Act 2000. NAC could have applied for a Water Licence for New Acland Stage 3 under the Water Act 2000. However, a water licence would not be approved for a new project prior to a Mining Lease being granted the Water Act amendment passed in 2014 removed the need for a Water Licence
“Nobody in Department of Natural Resources and Mines or Department of Environment and Heritage Protection that New Hope Group have been dealing with regularly in our application process for Stage 3, advised the company to expect new ground water licensing.”
NHG warns the regulatory changes could put more than 300 employee and contractor jobs at “serious risk”.
The proponent also warns the legislation will increase “green-tape” faced by resource companies and could lead to a further 12-month delay in gaining approval for NAC.
“This is without doubt the most scrutinised mine in Australian history. We have been through the process of public scrutiny at least six times and now we have yet another hurdle thrust in our way,” NHG managing director Shane Stephan says.
Further delays could have a devastating effect on the whole community according to NHG.
“It is hugely disappointing that the State Government could have such disregard for workers, especially when the chairman of their own legislative review committee implored Minister [Steven] Miles to examine the impact of the Bill on advanced projects such as ours,” Stephan says.
“We clearly presented the impacts of this legislation to Minister Miles. Either he wasn’t listening or he just doesn’t care.”