Jun 16, 2019 | Updated: 11:54 AM EDT

Last-Ditch Calls for Further Investigation on Coal Mine Harm

Jun 11, 2019 10:38 AM EDT

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Last-Ditch Calls for Further Investigation on Coal Mine Harm
(Photo : Coast and Country)

Experts on groundwater from around Australia have made repeated calls for further investigations into the potential effects on heritage groundwater reserves in central Queensland of the giant Adani Carmichael coal mine, gets the final regulatory go-ahead. In a new position paper, experts raised concerns that the ancient Doongmabulla Springs faces a 'reasonable threat of extinction' from Adani's proposed Galilee Basin coal mine, which echoes previous research by CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.

The Queensland Government is due to rule on the groundwater hurdle this week after clearing the way to another environmental concern, supporting Adani's proposed management plan for the endangered black-throated finch.

The report of the experts from Flinders University, RMIT, Monash and Latrobe Universities is now before the Queensland Government, and it highlights problems with Adani's claims that the springs are safeguarded by "an impervious layer, restricting water from flowing between the underground aquifers."

A founding member of National Center for Groundwater Research and Training, Adrian Werner, Flinders University Professor of Hydrogeology, said that Adani has not adequately examined the connection between the mine's groundwater drawdown and impacts to the Doongmabulla Springs, which is a fundamental requirement of the Carmichael mine's approvals.

Some of the experts that warn the springs face a "plausible threat of extinction include Professor Werner with Flinders Associate Professor Andy love, Dr. Eddie Banks, and Dr. Dylan Irvine, with Associate Professor Mathew Currel from RMIT University, Professor Ian Cartwright from Monash University, and Associate Professor John Webb from Latrobe.

Professor Werner noted that six years of advice from experts that the science is flawed does not seem to have overcome critical shortcomings with the science that have persisted despite several iterations of Adani's environmental management plans.

Referring to the 2013 Independent Expert Scientific Committee report, Land Court Case of 2014 - 2015, and this year's CSIRO review, Werner said further that with the deadline for approval approaching, they are compelled to reiterate concerns that flaws in Adani's scientific methods, modeling results, and the proposed 'adaptive management' approach by Adani have the potential to mislead decision-makers seriously.

He noted that they hope that their report assists the Queensland Government by highlighting the significant risk that the Carmichael Mine will cause the Doongmabulla Springs to become extinct, and will impact other groundwater-dependent ecosystems and water users to a higher degree than has so far been suggested by Adani.

The four areas the report pinpointed where Adani's investigation and environmental management strategies do "not stack up against the science" include:

  •  Adani appears likely to have significantly underestimated future impacts to the Doongmmabulla Springs Complex.
  •  Should the Carmichael Mine cause springs within the Doongmabulla complex to cease flowing, the impact could be permanent.
  •  Adani's safeguard against the impacts, namely 'adaptive management,' is unsuitable and unlikely to protect the springs from extinction.
  •  Cumulative effects on the Springs that may result from other mining activities in the Galilee Basin have not been adequately considered.
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