Indian mining company Adani didn’t accept expert scientific advice on how to limit the environmental impact of its Carmichael coal mine, documents have revealed.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues to insist the Indian mining giant did satisfy concerns from Geoscience Australia and CSIRO before the federal government gave its plans final approval.
Earlier this month, his environment minister Melissa Price said Adani had “accepted in full” the advice from the agencies, prompting her to approve the company’s groundwater management plans.
But documents from Geoscience Australia, released under Freedom of Information, show Adani did not accept key advice and recommendations for its groundwater plan.
The company refused to acknowledge the model used to determine the Carmichael coal mine’s impact was not fit for purpose and that a new model might show the mine would breach environmental approvals, notes from three Geoscience Australia executives taken during a briefing from the environment department on April 5 show.
“So told Adani — if new model shows greater impact than current model, they have to sort it out (with) corrective (actions). They refused,” GA chief James Johnson’s handwritten notes say.
“But (it will be) their problem because (the) trigger(s) will be on actual impacts.”
“Integrity totally relies on the regulatory regime of monitoring.”
Another note from senior executive Richard Blewett mentions the head of CSIRO’s land and water division, Jane Coram, had complained the agencies had not seen Adani’s revised groundwater plan and were expected to take the department’s summary at face value.
Their notes, along with a third set from head of environmental geoscience Stuart Minchin, all show the government asked for a written assurance the experts’ concerns were allayed.
“Gov(ernment) is keen for assurance; ideal for gov … a letter from me to Mr Finn Pratt saying based on extensive briefing from DoEE on Adani [commitments, GA is of the view that this] addresses [the] concerns [we] raised,” Mr Johnson noted.
Four days later, Ms Price released a statement saying: “Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO have provided written assurances that these steps address their recommendations.”
Mr Morrison doubled down on this on Thursday.
“What the environment minister rightly did was not just to take it from the Department of Environment, but to ensure that the Department of Environment had consulted with Geoscience and with the CSIRO,” he told reporters in Tasmania.
“And they so advised.”
But Adani Australia CEO Lucas Dow says the company didn’t directly receive advice from the two scientific bodies.
“It wasn’t put to us, we couldn’t possibly have responded,” he told ABC’s Radio National.
“We never received any advice from Geoscience Australia or CSIRO in relation to the comments.”
Mr Dow said he didn’t expect the project to be in jeopardy if Labor wins the May 18 election.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wants to see Adani’s rail plan before giving the Galilee Basin coal mine the final tick of approva.
That’s been met with resistance from the Indian company.