Final Adani decision to be revealed today
Adani will learn today if it has the final state approval it needs to get on with building its Queensland coal mine amid fears for a million-year-old ecosystem.
Queensland's environment department is poised to reveal if it's happy with Adani's groundwater management plan, including a strategy to protect sacred wetlands some experts believe could permanently dry up if the mine proceeds.
Hydrologists say Adani has grossly underestimated the mine's groundwater impacts, and warn the mine could drain the underground water source that feeds the Doongmabulla Springs Complex, 8km from the edge of Adani's mining lease.
They fear for the plant and animal species that rely on the springs for survival, and have also warned of dire consequences for the Carmichael River which flows through the mine site.
The environment department went back to Adani with "additional requirements" on Friday last week, after the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia provided fresh advice on the company's water plans.
Adani says it has already updated the plan and sent it back.
Both agencies were highly critical of Adani's groundwater management plans before they were signed off by the Morrison government in April, days before the federal election was called.
They said the model Adani had used to forecast impacts on water systems "under-predicts groundwater drawdown arising from mine development".
Former environment minister Melissa Price signed off on the plans after Adani revised them, committing the company to a conservative approach to water management and improved monitoring regimes.
Adani also promised to fix the "modelling limitations" identified by the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia within two years of the first coal being mined.
The CSIRO has declined to release the advice it sent to the Queensland government last week.
The environment department has not responded to requests to see that advice.
Earlier this week, water experts from four Australian universities issued a joint report detailing what they called Adani's "severely flawed" water science.
"Adani has underestimated the likely impacts to the springs by adopting highly unrealistic parameters in their calculations while their modelling is riddled with uncertainties," Flinders University hydrogeology professor Adrian Werner said.
"If we allow Adani to drain billions of litres of water with this groundwater plan then we are effectively playing Russian roulette with the very existence of a million-year-old ecosystem."
Prof Werner, who was once an expert in a Land Court case against the Adani mine, has also raised serious concerns about what the project will do to the Carmichael River.
He says the mine will cut the waterway off from its flood plain, effectively reducing it to an elevated aqueduct that snakes through the mine site, with coal pits on either side.
He says Adani has also grossly overstated the river's current flow levels, and mining will disrupt groundwater sources that keep the river flowing for much of the year.
Adani says it is continuing to work with the environment department, and has dismissed Prof Werner's concerns.
"We'll pay attention to the experts and reputable advice of those who have been involved throughout this process," it said in a statement citing the CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, and the state and federal governments.
If its water plans are approved, Adani has vowed to immediately restart mine construction.
Other plans associated with the mine are yet to be signed off, but the water approval is the last one holding up construction.
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