The Australian government on Sunday gave the necessary approvals for Adani Enterprises Ltd to proceed with its $21.7-billion Carmichael coal, mine and rail project, media reports said on Sunday.
Australian minister for natural resources and mines Anthony Lynham approved the grant of three individual mining leases for $7.7-billion coal mining project in the Galilee Basin, involving exploration of three mine lease areas, reports said.
The three approved leases are 70441 Carmichael, 70505 Carmichael East and 70506 Carmichael North, which are estimated to contain 11 billion tonnes of thermal coal, Australia's The Age reported in its online edition.
Queensland Premier Annastascia Palaszczuk said the approvals allow Adani to mine coal reserves estimated at 11 billion tonnes and carry out associated works of building roads, workshops, power lines and pipelines.
"Some approvals are still required before construction can start, and ultimately committing to the project will be a decision for Adani," Palaszczuk said in a statement.
Adani, which still faces some legal challenges and resistance from environment groups, said it is working to finalise second tier approvals so as to begin construction in the calendar year 2017.
For Adani, however, much would depend on the progress on resolving legal challenges from environmentalists. Two legal challenges to the project are currently before courts.
The company has been battling opposition from green groups since start of work on the project five years ago. Environmentalists continue to block the projects on various fronts and are lobbying banks not to provide loans.
Environmentalists cite potential damage from port dredging, shipping and climate change resulting from mining work.
The Australian Conservation Foundation said in a statement the mine was "inconsistent with Australia's international obligations" to protect the Great Barrier Reef as coal from the mine would stoke global warming and drive coral bleaching.
Several international banks have said they will not provide financing for coal mining in the Galilee Basin, while Standard Chartered and Commonwealth Bank of Australia pulled out of the project in August.
Analysts say Adani will also find it tough to raise financing for the project due to a prolonged downturn in the global coal market.
Adani's spokesman, however, said that tough market should not put pressure on the project because most of its coal is already earmarked for Adani-owned power plants in India, rather than for sale on the open market.
Meanwhile, international NGO Greenpeace said Australian environmental groups appear to be reconciled to the fact that Adani Group's ambitious $22 billion coalmining lease project for Carmichael may finally be approved. Greenpeace made the statement after Queensland's provincial government minister Anthony Lynham saying the project would continue.
In its statement, Greenpeace said, "the Queensland Government's approval of a mining lease for Australia's biggest coal mine while the Great Barrier Reef is suffering its worst bleaching in over a decade is indefensible", but did not say what it will now do to stop the project.