Contributed from Queensland
The Queensland government has now given billionaire Gautam Adani’s company unlimited access to water – for 60 years.
The move has infuriated farmers, who fear that this will drain limited reserves in central Australia’s the Great Artesian Basin.
According to Adani’s water licence signed last Wednesday, the $16 billion Carmichael mine merely needs to monitor and report the amount of water it extracts under a permit that runs until 2077.
On top of this, there is no provision to stop drawing water, if it is found to cause environmental damage. There is no independent oversight. Nor will it be subject to the new Water Act Referral Panel that is supposedly, responsible for ensuring “the sustainable management of water in Queensland”.
Carmel Flint, a campaigner for anti-mining group Lock the Gate, said the open-ended water licence for Adani amounted to a “free kick” to take water from important aquifers such as the Dunda Beds and Clematis Sandstone formations.
Being the driest inhabited continent on the planet, Australia’s water supply is severely limited and there is a strong case for its conservation.
The Carmichael miner is one of nine proposed for the Galilee Basin, which is west of Rockhampton and the prospect is that the Carmichael case will set a precedent that will quickly spread to other sites.
“It’s bloody-minded and barbaric,” said Bruce Currie, a grazier who lives in the region and has joined legal action against Galilee mines. “This is going to definitely impact on the integrity of [the Great Artesian Basin].”
A supplementary environmental impact statement found that the mine will draw out 26 million litres of water per day, when it is at full production.
The water issue adds to what is shaping up to be one of Australia’s biggest ever battles over the environment.
While Adani and the government insist that the project will bring economic benefits, including providing new opportunities for the region and lifting exports, opponents counter with the cost of contributing to a dying coal industry and Australia’s carbon footprint, the impact on Indigenous land rights, the threat to the water supply and farming and the threat to the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland’s number one tourist attraction, already suffering unprecedented coral bleaching.
It has also become clear, opponents say, that the project will require further huge subsidies to remain viable and this would pull away government funds that would otherwise be used for providing a range of services.
Because of its eagerness to ensure Adani’s project gets through and all costs and preparedness to take every shortcut available, the Queensland government is fast developing a reputation as a corrupt government. This is likely to cause id irreparable damage and the issue might even topple it from government in the end. It is also tarnishing the reputation of the federal government, which is also a friend of Adani.