Australian state leader calls for timeline on Adani coal mine approvals

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s Queensland state premier on Wednesday called for India’s Adani Enterprises to sit down with the state regulator to work out a definitive timeline to obtain approvals for a controversial coal mine project in the state.

Premier Anna Palaszczuk said the community required certainty on the long-delayed Carmichael mine’s outlook, and was tired of waiting for approvals after environmental reviews that have stalled the project.

“I think everyone’s had a gutful of this, frankly,” said Palaszczuk, a member of the Labor Party. The Adani project was at the heart of campaigning for last weekend’s national election, which resulted in a shock win for the ruling Liberal-led coalition despite polls that said Labor would triumph.

“I want them (Adani) to sit down and work up a definite time frame on decisions around these reports,” Palaszczuk said. “And I want a timeline, hopefully agreed to by all of the parties, by Friday.”

The comments signal the potential for a thaw in Queensland’s process of granting approvals for the mine, which has been under development for almost a decade and has become a touchstone for climate change concerns.

Australian voters had been expected to hand a mandate to the Labor party to pursue ambitious targets for renewable energy and carbon emissions cuts while turning away from coal.

But Australia rejected the opposition’s plans, with voters in coastal Queensland towns that would benefit from the mine voting in droves with job prospects in mind.

Adani Mining Chief Executive Lucas Dow said that the miner expected a timeframe for future decisions within the next fortnight.

“Any timeframe for a decision on these outstanding management plans longer than the next two weeks is nothing more than another delaying tactic by the Queensland Labor government designed to delay thousands of jobs for regional Queenslanders,” Dow said in a statement.

He had said at the weekend that the state government, which has repeatedly extended environmental reviews of Adani’s Carmichael mine, should learn from Labor’s defeat in Queensland, listen to its own voters and let the mine go ahead.

But environmental groups repeated their call for the state government, which is up for re-election late next year, to block the mine to aid Australia’s commitment to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade, in line with the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change.

“If the Adani mine goes ahead, it will open the floodgates to the Galilee Basin, one of the largest untapped carbon reserves on earth,” said David Cazzulino, a campaigner with the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“To protect our reef for the next generation we must do our bit to achieve that 1.5C goal and that means the Galilee’s coal must stay in the ground.”

Reporting by Melanie Burton and Sonali Paul in MELBOURNE; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell