Mackay Conservation Group v Commonwealth of Australia and Adani Mining

August 2015

On behalf of the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG), EDO NSW successfully challenged the Federal Government’s approval of the Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland, which would be one of the largest coal mines in the world.

MCG’s claim alleged that Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, failed to properly consider the impact of the Carmichael mine on the Great Barrier Reef, when he approved the project by Indian company, Adani Group, in July last year.

Given that climate change is the greatest threat to the survival of the Reef, Mackay Conservation Group says that the Minister should have considered greenhouse gas emissions arising from the burning of the coal by Adani in India, not just the emissions from mining the coal.

MCG says that under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Minister unlawfully limited his consideration of greenhouse gas emissions from the mine to those that are reportable under the under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 Act, which covers only emissions from mine operations.

However, emissions from the burning of the coal once it is exported to India will by far eclipse any emissions generated in Australia by the mining process itself.

The claim also alleged that the Minister failed to properly consider Adani’s poor environmental record in India before approving the mine. In 2013 the Indian government found Adani guilty of serious breaches of Indian environmental law, including illegally clearing mangroves and destroying tidal creeks. Indian Courts had also found in 2012 that infrastructure associated with the Adani’s port in Mundra had been built without environmental approvals. The case alleged that the Minister ignored that evidence, instead relying on an earlier statement made by Adani in 2010 that it has a good environmental record overseas.

However it was the Minister's failure to take into account the approved conservation advices for the Yakka Skink and the Ornamental Snake that resulted in the victory.

EDO NSW is grateful for the assistance of barristers Geoffrey Kennett SC, Ashley Stafford, and Chris McGrath in the preparation and running of this case.

Read our media release.

Read our blog responding to claims the win was a mere 'technical hitch'.

Read our blog about the proposed changes to the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act in the wake of the decision.

On 15 October 2015, the Federal Minster announced the re-approval of the mine, with additional compliance conditions. Read the Minister's statement of reasons.

Court orders