WATER SCHEME: The Suttor River. Picture: Coast and Country
WATER SCHEME: The Suttor River. Picture: Coast and Country

‘A line in the sand’: Adani water scheme case back in court

A LEGAL challenge against the Federal Environment Minister's assessment of Adani's water infrastructure is back in court again.

The Australian Conservation Foundation's case against the Morrison government's decision on Adani's North Galilee Water Scheme will be heard in the Federal Court on October 6.

ACF has launched legal proceedings arguing the government had made an error of law by not applying the water trigger to the Carmichael mine project.

It follows similar legal action against the Federal Government in 2018.

The water trigger was established in federal environmental law to ensure large coal mining and coal seam gas projects that affected water resources were subjected to proper scrutiny.

ACF is seeking to overturn the government's December 2019 determination that the impact of Adani's NGWS on water did not need to be assessed.

The Indian miner's water use is a concern for ACF, which has consistently claimed Adani "plans to suck up to 12.5 billion litres of water each year out of the Suttor River".

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The foundation's spokesman said the government's view was that the water trigger only applied to projects that involved the physical extraction of coal.

WATER SCHEME: Groups says Indian miner plans to suck up to 12.5 billion litres of water annually from the Suttor River. Pictured is the Suttor River. Picture: Christine Carlisle
WATER SCHEME: Groups says Indian miner plans to suck up to 12.5 billion litres of water annually from the Suttor River. Pictured is the Suttor River. Picture: Christine Carlisle

"While the NGWS will supply water for exclusive use at the Carmichael coal mine, because the pipeline scheme does not, in and of itself, propose to extract coal, the water trigger does not apply," the spokesman said.

"ACF's view is that this is a very narrow reading of the water trigger, which would encourage

mining and coal seam gas proponents to 'split up' the assessment of their projects to avoid

scrutiny."

He said the foundation was taking this case back to court in a bid to "draw a line in the sand".

"If we win, it will set a new legal precedent that essential infrastructure for coal seam gas and large coal mining projects must be assessed under the water trigger," the spokesman said.

The North Galilee Water Scheme Project comprises a water pipeline, pump station infrastructure and the expansion of an existing dam in the Belyando/Suttor River catchment, to supply water to the Carmichael mine.

An Adani Mining spokeswoman said the extraction of flood water to be pumped from the catchment was approved as part of the Environmental Impact Statement process in 2015 and then through the granting of a water licence by the Queensland Government in 2017.

Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine, Queensland. Picture: Cameron Laird
Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine, Queensland. Picture: Cameron Laird

"It equates to 12.5GL of water or less than 1 per cent of the annual water flow available in the Belyando/Suttor River catchment," she said.

"This water can only be taken when the river system is in flood, after other users, like farmers, have taken their share, and only when the river is flowing at a rate of 2592 mega litres per day.

"Furthermore, Adani must pay upfront for this water at a similar rate to other industrial water users.

"These are some of the conditions of Adani's water licence, which was granted in 2017."

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The spokeswoman said the water scheme project referral was subject to standard public consultation and review processes, in line with federal legislative and regulatory requirements.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Sussan Ley said: "Given that the matter is before the court it is not appropriate to comment."



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