Construction on Australia’s largest coal mine looks set to begin next year as Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk prepares to meet with the company’s global head to announce finer details.
Gautam Adani will on Tuesday meet Ms Palaszczuk in Townsville, where the pair is expected to name the north Queensland city as the Galilee Basin project’s headquarters.
Adani on Monday won final Queensland and federal government approval for a 31.5 km rail line and temporary camp for the $21.7 billion Carmichael mine project, angering green groups who had unsuccessfully attempted to fight the plans in court.
State Development Minister Dr Anthony Lynham urged Queenslanders to consider the $2 billion in mining royalties the state receives from the resources sector.
” This provides for our hospitals, it provides for our schools, our roads, our infrastructure,” he said.
The news fuelled a protest of about 150 people outside the commonwealth offices in Melbourne and conservationists plan to target the Townsville meeting.
” Coal is a dud, coal is not innovation,” Australian Conservation Foundation campaign director Paul Sinclair said.
” We need clean energy and a healthy reef.”
But Dr Lynham insisted it was possible to have economic prosperity in the north and protection of the Great Barrier Reef, citing 200 “stringent” conditions on the project and a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.
Last week, scientists who studied a mass coral death on the Great Barrier Reef this year said it was undeniably the result of climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and the Adani mine would only compound the threat.
Australian scientists say that with 1.5 or 2 degrees of warming, the reef is in grave danger and the world isn’t even on track to meet those targets.
The mine now needs road approvals, power line approvals and a water license, but Dr Lynham said the company had signalled it intends to begin construction in the first half of 2017.
The mine’s funding continues to generate controversy amid speculation $1 billion in concessional loans could be provided under a federal scheme to fund the rail link.
During the election campaign, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said there was no public funding for the mine, but the door was left open for support through the government’s $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.
On Monday, the federal minister for northern Australia Matt Canavan said any decision on a loan for the rail link would be made by the fund’s independent board.
The political ramifications for Queensland Labor, amid a looming election expected to be called some time next year, remain to be seen.
But Dr Lynham insisted the party’s green credentials remained intact and pointed to $100m in funding for protection, a ban on capital dredge spoil dumping and higher water quality targets.