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Adani coal mine granted unlimited water licence in “reckless” move

In a move that's been described as 'barbaric', 'reckless' and having 'irreversible consequences', the Queensland Government has issued a 60-year unlimited water access licence to Adani's proposed Carmichael coal mine.

A leaked copy of the water licence shows the Indian mining company would simply monitor and report the amount of water it extracts, and enter into 'make-good' agreements with bore owners and local water users.

The state Natural Resources and Mines Minister Anthony Lynham defended the licence and said that more than 100 of the 270 conditions on the project applied to groundwater.

“These safeguards will ensure that water resources are protected, and that this critical project progresses sustainably,” he said.

“This project has been through extensive scrutiny by state and federal governments. The community and many of these groups have had their say, many times.”

Lynham also said the licences provided Adani with about 1% of water farmers are currently able to use in the Burdekin Basin catchment, and yet Adani has to pay about three times more than farmers.

But that claim “beggars belief” according to groundwater expert and former general manager of water planning in Queensland Tom Crothers.

“The government has not set the threshold levels yet for low-impact and high-impact take for the Dunda Beds and Clematis Sandstones, which are both aquifers associated with the Great Artesian Basin,” he told the ABC.

“And these thresholds are going to be decided in a further report to be prepared by Adani. And even if Adani does start to impact on those thresholds, it can offset its licences through provisions of the water licence in other areas. It doesn't trigger a halt to mining.”

The proposed $16 billion coal mine would be one of the largest in the southern hemisphere and its average water demand would be 12GL per year according to its supplementary environmental impact statement.

Crothers is far from alone in claiming the decision will have disastrous impacts on the immediate Galilee Basin area and the Great Artesian Basin, through to the Great Barrier Reef and global carbon emissions.

The Australian Conservation Foundation's Basha Stasak said moved amendments to the state Water Actexempted Adani’s water licences from any form of public scrutiny.

“The Queensland Government have created one rule for Adani and a different set of rules for everyone else when it comes to managing groundwater,” said Stasak.

“This is a secret decision to prop up a mine that will help destroy the reef and the 70,000 Queensland jobs that rely on it ... a secret decision to prop up a mine that no one else will fund because it is too risky and dangerous for the climate.”

Lock the Gate Alliance campaigner Carmel Flint described the decision as 'risky and senseless'.

“Adani is getting free rein to suck up as much groundwater as it wants until 2077, with no independent review during those 60 long years,” she said.

“Make no mistake – this is another special deal for Adani that hangs Queensland farmers out to dry.”