On 6 March 2020, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) lodged a case in the Federal Court against the Morrison Government over its assessment of Adani’s (now Bravus Mining & Resources) North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS). The case was heard by the Federal Court on 6 October and 13 November 2020 and today the Court ruled in ACF’s favour.
The proposed pipeline and water harvesting infrastructure, part of the NGWS, would have enabled Bravus to pump up to 12.5 billion litres of water per year from the Suttor River in Central Queensland to the Carmichael coal mine for activities such as washing coal and suppressing dust on-site.
The basis of ACF’s case was that the Federal Government made an error of law when it decided not to apply the water trigger to the assessment of the NGWS.
The water trigger in Australia’s national environment law applies when the Environment Minister decides a large coal mine or coal seam gas project will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on a water resource.
According to ACF, the Government reasoned that the pipeline “is not a ‘large coal mining development’, nor does it involve ‘large coal mining development’” and that the pipeline proponent (Adani Infrastructure Pty Ltd) “is a different legal entity” to the coal mine proponent (Adani Mining Pty Ltd).
The government further reasoned that “The extraction of coal does not form part of the proposed action. Consequently, the proposed action is not a coal mining activity, nor does it ‘involve’ coal mining activity.”
Today the Court said the Morrison Government made an error of law when the decision was made to not apply the water trigger to the assessment of the NGWS.
Chief Executive Officer of the ACF, Kelly O’Shanassy, said it’s a win for regional communities and farmers who depend on reliable flows of river water in a drought-prone landscape.
“It will set a new precedent that essential infrastructure for coal seam gas and large coal mining projects must be assessed under our national environment law.”
A Bravus Mining & Resources spokesperson commented: “We will carefully consider the judgement handed down today in the Federal Court regarding the validity of the Federal Environment Minister’s previous decision to approve the North Galilee Water Scheme.”
“Regardless of today’s court judgement, construction on the Carmichael Mine and Rail Project is well underway, and importantly, the North Galilee Water Scheme project is not required for these construction activities. We have also secured water for the operational phase that does not require the North Galilee Water Scheme. For the avoidance of doubt – today’s decision will not have any impact on the construction or operation of the Carmichael Mine.”
“We will now consider our options on the progression of the North Galilee Water Scheme and how we would like to proceed.”