Department defends controversial finch decision
AFTER coming under fire from Adani supporters and representatives last week, the State Department of Environment and Science has sought to address criticisms about environmental approvals.
Much of the criticism arose surrounding the approval of the Byerwen mine, another mine with a footprint on known black-throated finch habitat.
Minister for Resources, Senator Matt Canavan said it was "a joke" that a condition could be imposed that would require the proponent to "count every single bird".
When asked why the department approved that mine with seemingly similar conditions and not Adani's plan, a DES spokesperson said "these are two very different projects".
"There is a significant difference in black-throated finch population at these two sites, which is why the Department of Environment and Science manages its environmental assessments according to the specifics of each project," the spokesperson said.
Citing the State Government's Co-ordinator General's report on environmental impacts for the Byerwen mine, the spokesperson pointed out how comparing the two environmental plans could be problematic.
"Two individual birds suspected to be the black-throated finch (BTF) were observed (without a positive identification) during baseline surveys near the large wetland in the south-west of the project - there are no previous records of this species in or near the project area," a spokesperson said.
"By contrast, the site of the proposed Carmichael Mine is known to be home to the most significant population of the black-throated finch."
Again, citing the Co-ordinator General's report for the Carmichael Mine project the spokesperson "the project area contains habitat for a significant population of the black-throated finch which will be impacted by large scale clearing for open-cut mining and related infrastructure, and subsidence from underground mining operations".
The DES also drew criticism on conditions imposed on Adani directly from the proponent when a spokesperson said " our conditions require an experienced ecologist and yet the Department of Environment and Science is now trying to specify the academic qualifications required such as insisting on post graduate qualifications for certain activities".
DES said the conditions were business as usual for ecological management on any mine site.
"Under the conditions of approval of the (proponent), survey and monitoring must be undertaken by suitable experienced ecologists given the complex research work that Adani are committing to," the spokesperson said.
"The issue DES has raised is that the BTFMP does not provide enough detail to confirm that they have the appropriate experience for this work.
"It is not unusual or unreasonable for governments to require scientific reports and reviews to be undertaken by people with scientific expertise in the area concerned, and for that scientific expertise to be supported by appropriate qualifications (including academic qualifications) in that field of expertise."
Despite the attempts at clarification from the DES, many still have their cross-hairs set on the State Government.
Senator Canavan expressed concern that the State Government's handling of the approval process might spook the stakeholders of the Queensland coal industry.
"It's constantly a concern and ultimately, not just Adani, but other companies will walk away from Queensland," Senator Canavan said.
"The worldwide rankings of different jurisdictions to attract mining investment came out this year and Queensland is listed 50th below countries like Mozambique and Madagascar. This is a real problem for our state."
Senator Canavan was confident that Adani was "a long way down the road" and would not walk away from the project, but he feared future investment in the state's resources could be deterred.