The Federal Court has re-affirmed the legitimacy of the ‘water trigger’ in Australia’s environment law and thrown into disarray plans to take 12.5 billion litres of water a year – as much as 163,000 Sydney residents use in a year – from Queensland’s Suttor River to service Adani’s Carmichael coal mine.

The Court today agreed with the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) that the Morrison government made an error of law when the Environment Minister decided not to apply the ‘water trigger’ to the assessment of Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme.

“This is a great win for the protection of water on our dry continent from coal mining and coal seam gas extraction,” said ACF’s Chief Executive Officer Kelly O’Shanassy.

“It’s a win for regional communities and farmers who depend on reliable flows of river water in our drought-prone landscape.

“It will set a new precedent that essential infrastructure for coal seam gas and large coal mining projects must be assessed under our national environment law.

“We expect the federal government to properly apply the law.

“Big mining corporations cannot be trusted to put our environment ahead of their profits, which is why it is so important the water trigger is applied to projects like Adani’s.

“This decision raises more doubts about the viability of Adani’s mine. Without the North Galilee Water Scheme, it’s hard to see how Adani has enough water to operate its mine.

“This decision will apply to other potential water sources for the Carmichael mine.

“This is a win for people power – thousands of people across Australia have chipped in to fund this case.”

The water trigger in Australia’s national environment law applies when the Environment Minister decides a large coal mine or coal seam gas project will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on a water resource.

The proposed pipeline and water harvesting infrastructure would enable Adani (now called Bravus) to pump up to 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River to the coal mine. This water would be used to wash coal and suppress dust on the mine site.

This is the second time ACF has successfully challenged the Environment Minister’s decisions over Adani’s water scheme, with the government conceding in June 2019 that it had failed to properly consider some of the thousands of public comments it received.

ACF was represented in this case by the Environmental Defenders Office.

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