The Suttor River. The Environmental Defenders Office claims Adani “plans to suck up to 12.5 billion litres of water annually” from the river. Picture: Christine Carlisle
The Suttor River. The Environmental Defenders Office claims Adani “plans to suck up to 12.5 billion litres of water annually” from the river. Picture: Christine Carlisle

Adani water infrastructure triggers legal challenge

THE Environmental Defenders Office has taken legal action against the Federal Environment Minister’s assessment of Adani’s water infrastructure for the Carmichael coal mine.

It has filed proceedings in the Federal Court on behalf of its client, the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The EDO said the legal challenge centres on Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s determination that the water trigger did not apply to the North Galilee Water Scheme, which supplies water to the Carmichael mine.

The water trigger was established in federal environmental law to ensure large coal mining and coal seam gas projects that affected water resources were subjected to proper scrutiny.

The defenders office claimed the Indian miner “plans to suck up to 12.5 billion litres of water each year out of the Suttor River”.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley. Picture: Matt Thompson
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley. Picture: Matt Thompson

“Our client ACF argues that the Environment Minister made an error of law by failing to apply the ‘water trigger’ in Australia’s environmental law to Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme” EDO chief executive David Morris said.

“The Minister has determined that, despite the Carmichael coal mine operation’s reliance on the proposed infrastructure, the NGWS is not a ‘coal mining activity’ and therefore not subject to the water trigger … The decision must be overturned.

“In this case the project involves the use of water for coal mining on an enormous scale and it’s vitally important that these impacts be subject to the thorough assessment we say is required by law.”

A spokesman for Ms Ley said the Federal Government would consider the impacts of potential changes to the flow of the Suttor River on nationally listed plants and animals.

“As the matter is before the Federal Court, it is not appropriate to comment further in relation to legal proceedings,” he said.

An Adani spokeswoman said this was the latest “lawfare tactic” deployed by the foundation.

WATER SCHEME: The Suttor River. Picture: Coast and Country
WATER SCHEME: The Suttor River. Picture: Coast and Country

Adani’s water infrastructure has been subject to intense scrutiny by environmental groups for several months.

“This will be the 12th occasion that groups like these who have charity status, or are closely-affiliated with groups who do, have used the courts in an attempt to delay our project,” an Adani spokeswoman said.

“All of these legal challenges brought about by activists have been unsuccessful.

“We are getting on with building the mine and rail project and the question that needs to be asked is whether it’s acceptable for the ACF to maintain its charitable status and collect tax free dollars to fund political advocacy campaigns like this, which achieve little more than tying up the courts.”

In December, the Australian Conservation Foundation slammed the Federal Government’s decision to refer the North Galilee Water Scheme for environmental approval without applying the federal water trigger.

At the time, an Adani spokeswoman said the extraction of flood water to be pumped from the catchment was originally assessed and approved as part of the Environmental Impact Statement process in 2015, and then through the granting of a water licence by the State Government in 2017.

“It equates to 12.5GL of water or less than 1 per cent of the annual water flow available in the Belyando/Suttor River catchment,” she said.

“This water can only be taken when the river system is in flood, after other users, like farmers, have taken their share, and only when the river is flowing at a rate of 2592 mega litres per day.”

Months earlier, the foundation won its Federal Court appeal against the assessment of the water scheme.

The Federal Government was forced to concede the case, admitting it failed to consider public submissions and even lost some submissions.