The Buzz [Sept edition] - wrap on the Carmichael project

Posted September 24, 2015

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(The Yakka skink)

Adani’s plans for a $16 billion coal mine have been hogging the headlines nationwide in a skirmish that started with a skink and a snake.

It has since turned into a federal battle over the scope of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act.

Approval for the Carmichael Mine was set aside in early August by the Federal Court after it found Environment Minister Greg Hunt had not properly considered advice about the yakka skink and the ornamental snake, which are classed as vulnerable species.

Mackay Conservation Group co-ordinator Ellen Roberts said the scale and impacts of the northern Galilee Basin mine meant it would be the most damaging in Australian history.

“‘It is astonishing and deeply troubling that it has taken a legal case by a small community group to bring the approval process under proper public scrutiny, and expose Minister Hunt’s dereliction of duty in fast-tracking the mine,” she said.

But Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche reckoned the court rebuff over a technicality had probably done the industry a favour, highlighting a well-funded and well-coordinated campaign being executed by anti-coal activists.

“This issue has rammed home to the man and woman in the street the real implications for the economy and jobs of the activists’ wrecking tactics,” he said.

Then Prime Minister Tony Abbott expressed frustration saying: “If we get to the stage where the rules are such that projects like this can be endlessly frustrated, that’s dangerous for our country and it’s tragic for the wider world.”

Attorney-General George Brandis described the case as “vigilante litigation” and told the senate that provisions in the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act were too widely drawn.

“Anyone, regardless of whether they have a material or relevant interest in a project, has a capacity to approach the court to seek an order to stop it,” he said.

The Federal Government has since outlined its intention curtail green court action against the mining industry by repealing Section 487.2 of the Act.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson warned that future investment in the sector would be at risk if projects continued to be subject to interminable delays.

A spokesman for GetUp, which helped fund the anti-Carmichael court action, slammed the mining industry’s “self-righteous indignation” over legal challenges.

“The hysteria from the mining industry, an industry that has way too much influence over our politicians, is both completely ridiculous and deeply damaging to people’s rights, our democracy, the rest of the economy and of course the environment,” senior campaigner Sam Regester said.

The Australian reported on August 22-23 that the Carmichael project was likely to be locked up in litigation until 2017.

Adani is in the fifth year of development and approvals for the mine and has warned that the need to finalise these approvals and timelines is critical.

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