Adani is confident of getting the last state approval it needs for the construction of its Queensland coal mine, with a company chief declaring “we should be away in weeks”.
Adani won state government approval on Friday for its plan to protect the endangered black-throated finch, which lives on its central Queensland mine site.
It’s now waiting on one last approval, with the Department of Environment and Science due to decide on its groundwater management plan by June 13.
The most important remaining stronghold for the black-throated finch is in the Galilee basin, and covers land Adani and others intend to mine.
In a statement on Friday, the department said Adani had made additional promises to strengthen its finch management plan.
They include population studies on the mine site, and monitoring systems to track how the bird is doing over time.
“DES is also satisfied that Adani will engage appropriately qualified ecologists to undertake the company’s survey and monitoring work in relation to the black-throated finch,” the department said.
Adani Australia chief executive Lucas Dow expressed optimism about the imminent resumption of construction work, saying the company was already working with contractors and suppliers to hit the ground running, should the department also sign off on the groundwater plan.
“Ultimately, all things boding well, we should be away in weeks,” he told reporters.
He said Adani modified its finch management plan to incorporate departmental demands, even though it didn’t think some of them were really necessary to protect the species.
“Whilst we didn’t believe they were required in terms of meeting our obligations, in the interests of finalising the plan we incorporated elements that included, for example, changing the grazing density, adjusting some of the population survey methodologies and some of the research plans.”
Mr Dow did not answer when repeatedly asked how many of the birds live on the mine site, which covers a large swathe of its best remaining habitat.
But he said Adani had agreed to conduct population studies and implement monitoring systems to track how the species is doing over time.
Finch now ‘doomed to extinction’
Meanwhile, former Greens leader Bob Brown, who led a Stop Adani convoy to regional Queensland in the lead up to the federal poll, fears the finch is now doomed to extinction.
“The obliteration of the bird’s stronghold in the Galilee Basin is the same as shooting them,” he said in a statement.
Land clearing has left the finch with nowhere to live, with suitable habitat reduced to just 12 per cent of its original range, finch expert Dr April Reside has said.
The approval of the finch management plan follows the premier’s intervention last week, after Labor’s shock defeat at the federal election.
Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was fed up with delays to state approvals, and conceded voters were too, after Labor was thumped in regions that want Adani’s jobs.
She ordered the coordinator-general to sit down with the company and officials from her environment department and agree on approval deadlines.
Adani has vowed to resume the mine’s construction as soon as its groundwater plan is approved.