Today, the misnamed Minister for the Environment, Melissa Price, announced that, on the advice of the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, she was approving the Adani mine.
That is completely untrue.
On 24 January 2019, the Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE) requested Geoscience Australia and CSIRO to provide groundwater-related advice on draft management plans provided by Adani Mining Pty Ltd.
They provided their advice on 22 February.
The review found that the modelling used is not suitable to ensure the outcomes sought by the EPBC Act conditions are met. A number of limitations were also identified in the proposed monitoring and management approaches indicating they are not sufficiently robust to monitor and minimise impacts to protected environments.
The following are the answers provided to the specific questions posed by the government.
Q2a. How appropriate is the numerical model scenario selected by the approval holder to inform the Groundwater Management and Monitoring Plan and Rewan Formation Connectivity Research Plan and for incorporation into the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan as required by the conditions of approval?
The SEIS model used by the GMMP is the most conservative of the model scenarios as it predicts the greatest impacts from the mine development in all aquifers. However, being the best choice of available model runs does not mean that this model run is considered to be fit-for-purpose.
Q2b. Are there any other model scenarios put forward by the approval holder that are more appropriate to ensure the outcomes sought by the conditions of approval are met?
The review of the available model scenarios did not identify any other model scenarios put forward by the approval holder that are considered more appropriate. However, this review has identified a number of limitations, which mean that the model is not suitable to ensure the outcomes sought by the conditions of approval are met.
Q3. Are the monitoring and management approaches proposed in the GMMP and GDEMP consistent with the most plausible conceptualisation and sufficiently robust to ensure the outcomes above are met?
The proposed monitoring and management approaches described are consistent with the most plausible conceptualisation of groundwater source to the Doongmabulla Springs complex. However, limitations identified mean that the proposed monitoring and management approaches are not sufficiently robust to ensure the outcomes set out in 2b are met.
The Minister conceded in her media release that there were problems identified by the review.
That advice identified areas of groundwater modelling, monitoring and management that required further work.
That advice recommended a number of actions, which the Company has accepted in full, including:
- A substantial increase of early warning monitoring between the mine and the Doongmabulla Springs using additional deeper bores and an additional bore site to monitor flows
- Tightened corrective action triggers requiring an immediate response to any unexpected groundwater impact
- Commitments to re-run the model addressing all Geoscience Australia and CSIRO concerns within two years of the commencement of coal extraction (noting there are no predicted impacts to nationally protected matters within 15 years).
On Friday, the department called in the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia to give them a verbal briefing on the promises made by Adani. Most unusually, both organisations produced a letter dated the same day saying that the promises addressed some of their concerns whilst “noting that there are still components of that advice that will need to be addressed through the approval of the research plan.”
Suggesting that “Both CSIRO and Geoscience Australia have confirmed the revised plans meet strict scientific requirements” is a real stretch. Reading their actual report shows that many of their concerns remain but they were obviously pressured to write a letter in response on the same day they got a briefing from the department last Friday.
Considering Adani’s loose relationship with the truth in the past, giving approval on the basis of promises is madness.
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