The Australian Conservation Foundation brought the case against Adani (now known as Bravus) and said the next step may be that the Federal Government would have to redo its approvals and take into account issues of national importance on the Suttor River where the project plans to draw up to 12.5 billion litres of water a year. Adani could also appeal the decision.
The ACF said the decision was also a precedent that would mean other major mining and gas projects would now have to consider the issues of national importance on water bodies.
The water trigger applies when the Environment Minister decides a large coal mine or coal seam gas project will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on a water resource.
Because the decision covered any water source, ACF said it would impact the viability of the mine, but Adani said the water in question was not required for the construction of the project and it had secured water for the operational phase which did not include the Suttor River.
“For the avoidance of doubt, today’s decision will not have any impact on the construction or operations of the Carmichael mine,” a Bravus spokesperson said.
The ACF said the court today agreed with its claims that the Morrison government made an error of law when the Environment Minister decided not to apply the ‘water trigger’ to the assessment of Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme.
Although its approval was for a vast amount of water, there were conditions on the water licence, which included that it could only take the water after flooding and only when farmers had taken their allocation. It also had to pay the same rate as everyone else.
ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said the decision was “a great win for the protection of water on our dry continent from coal mining and coal seam gas extraction”.
“It’s a win for regional communities and farmers who depend on reliable flows of river water in our drought-prone landscape,” she said.
“It will set a new precedent that essential infrastructure for coal seam gas and large coal mining projects must be assessed under our national environment law.
“We expect the federal government to properly apply the law.
“Big mining corporations cannot be trusted to put our environment ahead of their profits, which is why it is so important the water trigger is applied to projects like Adani’s.
“This decision raises more doubts about the viability of Adani’s mine. Without the North Galilee Water Scheme, it’s hard to see how Adani has enough water to operate its mine.
“This decision will apply to other potential water sources for the Carmichael mine.
“This is a win for people power – thousands of people across Australia have chipped in to fund this case.”
Bravus said it would consider the court’s judgment and its options.
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