Indian energy giant Adani won a key approval from the Queensland state government of Australia on Friday to protect the endangered black-throated finch bird population as part of its crucial environmental plan at the site of its proposed billion-dollar mine project.
The victory for the Adani Group’s long-delayed mega coal mine project came days after a surprise election win of Australia’s pro-coal ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The group’s country head — Adani Australia Chief Executive Officer Lucas Dow — last week said that the defeat of the opposition Labor Party in Queensland, where the project is based, is a clear message to get the project done.
Labor Party leader Bill Shorten, who took a firm stand against coal and mining, resigned as his party fared poorly in Queensland, especially in mining communities in the north of the state.
The black-throated finch management plan and a groundwater plan were the two persisting hurdles before the Indian energy giant could begin work on the largest coal mine project in the country.
State premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had announced May 31 as the deadline to accept or reject it.
The groundwater plan, under the review of the state government, is due within a fortnight’s time.
Adani Australia had been in talks with the Environment Department to address concern about its finch conservation plan including requests for better habitat preservation and seed availability.
The southern species of the black-throated finch is classified as endangered by the state government.
In a statement, the Department of Environment said Adani had met numerous conditions to ensure the preservation of the bird and its habitat.
“Assessment of this plan has been a rigorous process, informed by the best available science,” a spokesperson said.
“(The Department of Environment) has met regularly with Adani to ensure that the plan is robust and is well-placed to deliver the best outcomes for the protection of the black-throated finch”.
The Department also asked Adani to ensure additional protection for the bird, including population studies and limited grazing on the site.
“(The Department) is also satisfied that Adani will engage appropriately qualified ecologists to undertake the company’s survey and monitoring work in relation to the black-throated finch,” it said.
The Adani Carmichael mine is set to become the largest coal mine, with approval to produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal annually, and 2.3 billion tonnes over the life of the mine.
Adani, which has mining and environmental licences of the state government, required the state approvals on management plans on the endangered finch bird and groundwater in order to commence the mine construction.
Gautam Adani-led Adani Group entered Australia in 2010 with the purchase of the greenfield Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland, and the Abbot Point port near Bowen in the north.
Carmichael would be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the biggest in the world.
Adani said last year it would fully fund the coal mine and rail project itself, but did not give an updated estimate of the cost of the mine.
The mine previously estimated at about USD 2.9 billion.