Adani Enterprises today said it was confident its proposed coal mine in Australia was environmentally sound after a green group lodged a fresh legal challenge on the grounds it would threaten the Great Barrier Reef and stoke climate change.
Adani is aiming to ship 40 million tonnes of coal a year in the Carmichael mine's first phase to coal-fired power stations in India. But it has battled environmental opposition since work on the project started in east Australia five years ago.
Australia's environment minister Greg Hunt had on 15 October reissued an environmental permit for construction of the mine, costing an estimated $7 billion, after clearing concerns raised in an earlier legal challenge over two rare outback species that set the project back by several months.
''The proposed mine at Carmichael has been approved, and subsequently re-approved, with the strictest conditions ever handed down under the EPBC Act,'' said a spokesman for Adani in Australia, referring to laws on 'Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation'.
''Adani is confident in the soundness of Minister Hunt's approval,'' he said.
The Environmental Defenders Office acting for the Australian Conservation Foundation has launched a review of that approval.
''This case is about whether the minister correctly applied the law when considering the impacts of the project on the Great Barrier Reef and endangered Black-throated finch,'' said Sean Ryan, the principal EDO solicitor for the foundation.
''Our question is, has the environment minister properly applied this legal obligation when considering the impacts of burning coal from this mine on the Great Barrier Reef,'' Ryan said.
The grounds for the review included one in relation to the Black-throated finch and three concerning climate change and the Great Barrier Reef, according to Ryan.
Environmentalists are fighting the mine on numerous fronts, lobbying banks not to provide loans and urging The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to designate the Great Barrier Reef ''in-danger'', citing potential damage from port dredging, shipping and climate change stoked by coal from the mine.
Progress on the mine was blocked in August after a claim Adani failed to take into account the welfare of the yakka skink lizard and ornamental snake.
"It is one thing for a project's approval to be challenged,'' the Adani spokesman said.
''It is quite another to wait for previous challenges to fail, then launch new ones on different grounds over, and over again, seeking endless delay, and endlessly abusing the process,'' he said.
The challenge was not trivial, according to Ryan.
"This is a matter of law … and it's important the federal minister gets it right,'' he said.