MELBOURNE (Reuters) – India’s Adani Enterprises on Thursday received the go-ahead to start construction of a controversial coal mine in outback Australia, after a state government approved a final permit on ground water management.
Indian billionaire Gautam Adani speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in this April 2, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo
Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science said in a statement it had approved Adani’s Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan following a rigorous assessment “based on the best available science.”
Adani has said that is ready to start construction “within days” of receiving the permit for its Carmichael mine that would produce 8-10 million tonnes of thermal coal a year, and cost up to $1.5 billion.
The mine has been a lighting rod for climate change concerns in Australia, and was seen as a factor in the surprise return of the conservative Liberal/National coalition to power in a national election in May.
The approval potentially paves the way for half a dozen new thermal coal mines to come on line in Australia by opening up Queensland’s remote Galilee basin with rail infrastructure to the coast 320 km (200 miles) away at Abbot Point.
Holders of other coal deposits in the basin include some of Australia’s wealthiest iron ore magnates such as Gina Rinehart, who has a joint venture with India’s GVK Group, and controversial one-term politician Clive Palmer.
The approval comes as other developed nations step up strategies to meet Paris Agreement emissions targets, and as many banks and insurers scale back exposure to coal and to new thermal coal mines in particular.
Thermal coal is mainly used for power generation and is being increasingly replaced by renewable energy sources.
Australia’s federal and state governments have repeatedly said that the mine must stand on its own merits, and a recent drop in prices for low grade thermal coal has raised doubts about whether the mine can prove economic.
Adani last year scaled back its initial plans for a 60 million tonne per year mine and has said that it will self-fund the project, backed by ready buyers in its own Indian power plants and its trading business.
Reporting by Melanie Burton; editing by Richard Pullin