MELBOURNE (Reuters) - India’s Adani Enterprises has taken a step closer to the construction of a controversial thermal coal mine in Australia after winning federal government approval for its groundwater management plan.
Adani wants to develop the Carmichael coal deposit in Queensland state, but has faced fierce environmental resistance that has turned the project into a political hot potato ahead of a federal election due next month.
Environment Minister Melissa Price said on Tuesday the project still needed nine further approvals from the Federal and Queensland state governments before mining can start.
“This decision does not comprise the final approval for this project,” she said.
The groundwater management plan also requires approval from the state government, Reuters was told last week by the state’s environmental department, which is also assessing a management plan for an endangered bird.
While the Carmichael project would create jobs and has strong support in the region, the ruling conservative Liberal-National coalition and opposition Labor Party both fear losing votes in major cities where voters are worried about climate change.
Adani welcomed the approval.
“We’re ... looking forward to delivering the thousands of jobs our project will create for people in north and central Queensland,” Lucas Dow, chief executive of Adani Mining, said in a statement.
A Queensland government official told Reuters in February that Adani may have to wait up to two years for some environmental approvals.
Adani said last year it would fully fund the coal mine and rail project on its own. It did not give an updated estimate of the cost of the mine, previously estimated at about A$4 billion ($3 billion).
Reporting by Melanie Burton and Sonali Paul in MELBOURNE; Additional reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj in NEW DELHI; Editing by Richard Pullin and Tom Hogue