SYDNEY – Australia greenlighted on Tuesday a project by Indian firm Adani to build the largest coal mine in the country despite protests from environmental groups.
Environment activists have been opposing the $11.9 billion Carmichael coal mine project that will run on the Galilee Basin in the northeast state of Queensland, on grounds that it poses a threat to the Great Barrier Reef, which is located in the same region.
“I am proud to announce the project has Final Investment Decision (FID) approval which marks the official start of one of the largest single infrastructure – and job-creating – developments in Australia’s recent history,” Gautam Adani, the firm’s president, said in a statement announcing the decision by the Australian government.
The Great Barrier Reef, declared World Heritage Site, is the world’s largest coral system and has been, for the second year running, suffering from excessive coral bleaching that has led to the death of half the species.
“The last thing the Great Barrier Reef needs is another coal mine doomed to fail,” WWF Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said.
Resources minister Matt Canavan defended the project, which involves the construction of a 389-kilometer (242 miles) railway line at the inauguration of the Adani office in Townsville.
“It is the first time we have opened up a coal basin in 50 years and if we can get it going, it will open up more projects,” said Canavan.
The project, which plans to create 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, is yet to receive funding guarantee after four major Australian banks backed out.
The company has requested a loan of around $672 million (596 million euros) to Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.
The Australian Greens party spokesperson for environmental affairs, Larissa Waters, said the Adani announcement does not imply that the mine will go ahead, the AAP news agency reported.
In October 2015, the Australian government had re-approved the Adani project after a court had ruled in favor of a legal challenge to the project, imposing 36 strict conditions that included accepting the recommendations of independent experts to protect a habitat of 31,000 hectares (76,602 acres) and funding to investigate and protect endangered fauna in the wetlands of Doongmabulla Springs.
The mine, which could operate for about 90 years, will produce 60 million tons of coal to be exported from the Abbot Point port terminals, located near the Great Barrier Reef.