Indian mining giant Adani's controversy-hit $21.7-billion project to build one of the world's largest coal mines in Australia received a boost on Thursday after the Queensland government made a last-minute amendment to its new water laws that would exempt the project from any public objection on that score.
The last-minute changes to legislation announced by the Palaszczuk government will shield Adani's Carmichael mine project in the Galilee Basin from potential legal challenges that loom for other miners under Queensland's water-licensing reforms.
The new laws would require mining projects in Queensland to obtain a water licence, in an effort to reduce the impact on ground water.
Under the new water laws, mining projects in development will be forced to obtain a water licence under a government bid to manage impacts on groundwater use.
However, Queensland premiere Annastacia Palaszczuk's government has added an amendment to the laws that will allow the Adani mine project, which has already faced significant legal action, to avoid court challenges to its water licence.
Under the amendment, projects that have already finalised proceedings with the Land Court will be able to obtain a licence from the government without being subjected to challenges from the public, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
State environment minister Steven Miles had moved the amendment would still make it necessary for companies that had already undergone scrutiny through an environmental impact statement (EIS) and the Land Court to obtain a water licence, but would not have to go through the public objection process.
"This will be achieved by allowing associated water licence applications to be exempt from public notification if the mining project has already been through an EIS process and a Land Court objections hearing in which objectors tested the groundwater modelling undertaken by the project proponent with expert evidence of their own," Miles said.
"That particular project has been through two very significant Land Court cases and so what we've said is if they can demonstrate that they have met the requirements of the water licence and all of those elements had been tested in previous Land Court hearings, then this water licence stage would not be appealable in the Land Court," Miles said.
"It would still be subject to potential judicial review, but not a full Land Court challenge," he added.
Adani Australia welcomed the state government's support for recognising that the company has already passed all scientific and legal examinations to ensure rigorous measures are in place to manage water impacts at its Carmichael coal mine.
"The amendment recognises the significant work Adani has already done to manage water impacts and avoids unintended and unnecessary duplication and further delay for the $21 billion projects involving a mine and infrastructure including a rail link and port developments," Adani said in a statement.
Adani Australia CEO Jeya Kumar Janakaraj thanked all parliamentarians for their support and said, "I give particular credit to the Premier who recently announced in Townsville that she wanted to clear the barriers".