MELBOURNE, Oct 6 (Reuters) - A giant coal project under development in Australia by India’s Adani Enterprises is facing further delays over environmental permitting, Australia’s environment minister said on Tuesday.
Australia had yet to receive assurances that endangered species would be protected if Adani is reissued with an environmental permit to construct its Carmichael coal mine, the minister, Greg Hunt, said.
“The government is now waiting on the company, and I’ll make a final assessment on its merits when that comes,” Hunt told reporters on the sidelines of a climate investment conference.
A court on August 5 temporarily blocked progress on the $7 billion project in the inland Galilee Basin following a claim Adani failed to take into account the welfare of the yakka skink and an ornamental snake.
The Environment Department at the time said Hunt would reconsider his approval in six to eight weeks pending new submissions by Adani.
Adani, which wants to ship 40 million tonnes of coal a year to India, has battled opposition from environmental groups since starting work on the project five years ago.
The project has been repeatedly delayed by court actions by environmentalists, difficulties in obtaining finance and concern over the economics of the project, so much so that Adani recently halted engineering work.
An Adani source close to the matter said the company remained commited to the project and was counting on the permit being reissued by late November.
“We always had plans for the ornamental snakes and lizards found there,” the source told Reuters.
Proponents argue the Carmichael mine is needed if Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to keep a promise to bring electricity to hundreds of millions of people living off the grid. Critics are concerned greenhouse gases from burning coal will hinder efforts to combat global warming.
Several French and German banks have said they will not provide financing for coal mining in the Galilee Basin, while Standard Chartered and Commonwealth Bank of Australia pulled out of the project in August.
Adani, which estimates its project will generate more than A$22 billion ($15.6 billion) in taxes and royalties, has yet to line up funding but is sticking to a late 2017 start date.
While a push in India to rely more on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power has raised questions over the viability of the project, Adani has said the majority of future coal production had been pre-sold, guaranteeing revenue. ($1 = 1.4055 Australian dollars) (Additional reporting by Krishna N. Das in New Delhi; Writing by James Regan; Editing by Ed Davies)