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Adani-owned Abbot Point coal terminal charged over sediment water release

The Queensland Government is taking Indian mining giant Adani to court, alleging it discharged sediment water near the Great Barrier Reef containing eight times the amount of coal dust authorised.

The Department of Environment and Science (DES) has charged the Adani-owned Abbot Point Bulkcoal with one offence of contravening a temporary emissions licence. The licence was granted to help the company cope with heavy rainfall resulting from Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

Abbot Point faces a maximum fine of $2.7 million if found guilty of breaching the licence, although no known environmental impacts occurred as a result of the water release.

In a statement, the DES said the charge was the result of an investigation following the company’s refusal to pay a $12,190 fine last year.

“Following this election, DES conducted a formal investigation in accordance with its usual practice. The charge follows this investigation,” it said.

Queensland Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch backed the DES’ decision.

“The Department of Environment and Science, as the regulator, have made this decision based on the best available legal advice and scientific advice,” she told reporters.

The announcement came days after anti-Adani protestors at Queensland’s Parliament House dumped black confetti, meant to represent coal dust, onto MPs sitting in the chamber.

On Twitter, Enoch said she was “disappointed by the behaviour of protesters” and that the stunt had gone too far.

She defended the DES’ handling of the case.

“… We won’t put our laws at risk having politicians say who gets prosecuted. The alleged release of contaminants at Abbot Point in March last year has been the subject of formal investigation and remains under consideration by the regulator,” she wrote.

In a statement, Abbot Point Bulkcoal “categorically refuted” any wrongdoing, the ABC reported.

"Abbot Point Bulkcoal welcomes the clarification that the Queensland Government has acknowledged no environmental harm was caused as a result of the discharge and their confirmation this charge is not in relation to the Caley Valley Wetlands," it said.

"Abbot Point Bulkcoal operates Abbot Point port under the same strict government regulations and environmental governance mechanisms that all other Queensland ports are also required to operate under."

The matter is due before the Bowen Magistrates Court next month.