Adani urges Australia's Queensland to speed up Carmichael coal mine approval

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - India’s Adani Enterprises on Friday urged the government of Australia’s Queensland state to approve a management plan that would allow construction to start at its controversial Carmichael coal mine.

FILE PHOTO: Indian billionaire Gautam Adani speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in this April 2, 2014. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

Adani, which has shrunk its initial plans for the thermal coal mine to around a quarter of its original size, said last month that it would fund the mine and rail project itself after failing to secure other finance.

Adani Mining Chief Executive Officer Lucas Dow called on the Queensland government to provide certainty as to the process and timing for getting the outstanding management plans finalised so construction of the mine could get underway, he said in a statement.

“We have worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to accommodate the State Government’s requirements and feedback within the pending management plans only to be told at the eleventh hour that (it) is not ready to endorse these plans,” Dow said.

Adani and Queensland Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch met to discuss the project on Friday, Enoch said in a separate statement after the meeting.

Adani shrank the Carmichael plans early last year to make it more affordable after banks backed away from funding new coal mines under pressure from investors worried about climate change. [L4N1V83JS]

It now plans to start by producing around 10 million tonnes a year, eventually ramping up to 27.5 million tonnes for the first stage of the project. Originally Adani planned to produce as much as 40 million tonnes a year.

The Queensland government’s “position has always been clear that the project needs to stack up environmentally,” Enoch said. “Environmental approvals are necessary for all major projects.”

The mine has come under heated opposition from environmental groups since it was mooted eight years ago. Its development would open up infrastructure to the basin that could be used by other miners such as iron ore billionaire Gina Rinehart for export.

The state’s Department for Environment and Science, which is regulating the project, said that two more approvals were required, one around a management plan for the endangered black-throated finch, and another to identify the source aquifer of ground water in the area.

“There is no statutory time frame for (the department) to assess and approve either plan,” it said.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Christian Schmollinger