The Australian government on Monday approved Gautam Adani-led Adani Mining Pty Ltd’s controversial A$16.5 billion ($15.5 billion) Carmichael coal and rail project in Queensland, subject to strict conditions to protect groundwater.
The Carmichael mine, which could become Australia’s largest coal mine at 60 million tonnes a year, has sparked protests from green groups and marine tour operators worried about carbon pollution and export of the coal from a port near the Great Barrier Reef.
The Carmichael coal lode is in the outback Galilee Basin, where massive reserves of coal remain untapped due to the hefty costs of building ports and rail lines. Hurdles to Galilee Basin projects have increased as coal prices have sunk and global pressure to curb carbon emissions has stoked uncertainty over demand, making it tough to raise funds.
Despite the challenges, Adani and compatriot GVK, which is working on a rival Galilee Basin coal project, are still planning to build large new mines, rail lines and a port terminal.
“We welcome the minister’s approval of the Carmichael mine and rail project, which takes us another step closer to delivering our multi-billion dollar mine, rail and port development,” Adani chairman Gautam Adani said in a statement.
“The strict (environmental) conditions will ensure the protection of the environment as a paramount concern,” Australia’s environment minister, Greg Hunt, said in a statement.
Adani and GVK’s combined port plan is also being challenged by green groups.