Adani's blueprint to protect groundwater in the Queensland Galilee Basin from its $16.5 billion coal mine is primarily designed to protect the company from prosecution, an expert says.
Former National Water Commission consultant Tom Crothers has called for the Queensland government to reject Adani’s proposed groundwater dependent ecosystem management plan, saying it is bereft of protective measures.
His Australian Conservation Foundation-commissioned report finds “never-ending” analysis set out by the plan would cause significant delays in action responding to environmental damage.
He said that would give Adani more opportunity to shirk its responsibility on protecting sites including Doongmabulla Springs and Mellaluka Springs.
“When impacts are identified, the plan talks about doing investigation, analysis,” Mr Crothers, an expert in natural resource management, said.
“If Adani is found to be causing impacts, there’ll be more investigations, more analysis.
“It just goes on forever.”
Adani said in a statement that the plan is a draft and just one of many measures the company is putting in place to “manage and monitor” groundwater impacts.
It said its proposed groundwater activities had already been given Commonwealth and state government approval, also pointing to a 2015 Land Court ruling against environmentalists, finding mining leases should be granted.
The Queensland government has imposed strict environmental controls on Adani amid concerns over the Indian mining giant’s past environmental record and the impact of the massive Carmichael mine on the Galilee Basin and Great Barrier Reef.
More than 240 conditions have been imposed on the project, with 132 relating to water conditions.
Mr Crothers said the groundwater plan aimed to tick regulatory boxes, glossing over the potential impacts on ecological sites and putting a focus on mitigation rather than preventing damage.
“If these governments sign off on this plan in its current form, it clearly displays their claims as protecting the environment as absolute nonsense,” he said.
“The plan is deficient and it needs to be sent back to Adani for further work.
“We need to have some depth and outcomes in terms of environmental management to protect these assets.”