Anti-Adani protest meetings planned concerning ground water
DESPITE Adani's Carmichael Mine clearing extensive hurdles to receive their approvals, concerns remain about its impact of the project on ground water.
Later this month, environmental activist group Lock the Gate plan to host a series of regional Queensland community meetings in Mackay, Rockhampton and Townsville, featuring farmers and water experts who claim the proposed mine will irreparably damage groundwater sources.
The group claims on their website that the current groundwater licence for the mine is inadequate because it does not contain a limit on the volume of groundwater that can be extracted, "it is unlimited", it extends until 2077 and does not include any independent review process at any stage and does not stipulate a mechanism to stop the mine if the impacts are found to be too severe.
Former Queensland government Water Planning and Allocation general manager Tom Crothers said the mine puts at risk ancient springs and aquifers that form part of the Great Artesian Basin which are vital in times of drought.
"The Adani mine will leave behind devastating hazards for Queenslanders - six unfilled coal pits that will drain millions of litres of groundwater every year, forever," Mr Crothers said.
"Our politicians need to think very carefully about the legacy they want to leave Queensland."
An Adani spokeswoman said the mine would not impact springs, with studies finding a 300m thick layer of clay and a natural ridge separated the mine from the Doongmabulla Springs.
"A thorough and transparent scientific investigation conducted as part of the Carmichael Mine's approval process showed mining could be conducted without permanent damage to the Doongmabulla Springs," she said.
"Independent scientific studies estimate a maximum impact of 730 megalitres per year at the peak of mining in indirect impacts to Great Artesian Basin aquifers. Putting this into perspective, the Carmichael Mine will use less water from the Great Artesian Basin each year than a 450ha lower Burdekin cane farm."
"Groundwater is safely and appropriately managed at many mines throughout Australia using the checks and balances that will be in place at the Carmichael Mine."
An Adani Australia spokesperson sought to allay ground water concerns saying that Carmichael Coal project undertook detailed environmental impact assessment processes over five years, open to public and government scrutiny and consultation.
"Experts in their technical fields undertook detailed studies, many of which were subsequently reviewed by third party experts," the spokesperson said.
"After careful consideration by relevant State and Federal Government agencies, the Carmichael Project was approved with the strictest environmental conditions ever imposed on a mining project in Australia.
"We have received 112 approvals, all subject to conditions governing environmental and social aspects of mine, port and rail construction and operations.
The spokesperson said Adani Australia "does not have access to unlimited water" and were only allowed to take and reuse associated water that was encountered during normal mining operations.
"Associated water is the water that flows into the mine from the coal seams and the ground that separates them (interburden) as the mine progresses," they said.
"This water usage is necessary on most mine sites to achieve safe operations."
"This will allow us to take 10,800 megalitres of flood water per year and only when the Carmichael River is in flood to ensure downstream users such as farmers have their water requirements prioritised."
The Carmichael Mine would have an indirect take from the Great Artesian Basin and Adani Australia was required to offset this under the Commonwealth approval conditions.
"As a precautionary measure, the highest annual indirect take volume is required to be offset every year for the first five years of the project," they said.
"This means five times more water will be returned to the Great Artesian Basin than used by Adani Australia."
The Morning Bulletin understands that the water sampling investigation was still under way, the project does not yet have all of its approvals, there are still four outstanding plans which needed to be approved by the Environment Minister before Adani can start mining, Adani's plan for managing groundwater was yet to be approved and they still needed to submit information on how the mine will impact the Great Artesian Basin.
Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham said last year that multi-million dollar financial and regulatory safeguards and a stringent monitoring regime, are now in place to manage water supply in and around the $21.7 billion Carmichael coal project.
"They have to make good on agreements in place with landholders whose existing ground water entitlements might be affected," Dr Lynham said.
"There are now almost 270 conditions on this project to protect the natural environment and the interests of landholders and traditional owners.
"More than 100 of these conditions relate to groundwater.
"Most importantly, the government has the ability to require a mine to stop operations if any of these licences are breached."
Dr Lynham said every operational mine in Queensland was authorised to remove groundwater that flows into the mine to make the mine safe, and reuse it if they wish.
"This project has been through extensive scrutiny by State and Federal Governments, and the community, during public consultation and in the courts," he said.
"This project will generate thousands of jobs, as well as business opportunities in northern and central Queensland as well as royalties that will benefit the state as a whole.
"These safeguards will ensure that water resources are protected, and that this critical project progresses sustainably."
Lock the Gate's Rockhampton forum will be held at 6.30pm on April 11 at the Gracemere Cattle Yards.