A group of traditional owners fighting Adani’s central Queensland coal mine have filed a court injunction against both the mine owner and the Queensland government, hoping to prevent a National Native Title Tribunal decision on the Carmichael mine site.
The legal fate of Australia’s largest proposed coal mine hinges on the tribunal registering an Indigenous land use agreement (ILUA).
After months of pressure from Adani, it is understood the tribunal has moved to fast-track its ruling and was due to hand down its decision some time this week.
The move shocked mine opponents within the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) traditional owners, who fear having a huge swathe of their native title claim on Galilee Basin country irreversibly struck down before the Federal Court can rule on a separate challenge to the validity of the ILUA.
Some W&J claimants have alleged in the Federal Court that Adani paid certain people $2,000 to attend a meeting and vote in favour of a compensation deal that would allow the coal mine to go ahead.
Speaking in Brisbane today for the W&J group opposed to the mine, Adrian Burragubba said they were determined to stop the tribunal handing down a decision ahead of the court ruling.
However, the W&J’s 12-person native title representative group is split down the middle on the mine deal, which was revived last year after traditional owners rejected Adani twice before.
Patrick Malone, a W&J representative who supports the deal, said claims people were paid to vote for Adani were “nonsense”. The Federal Court is due to rule on the matter in March.
Mr Burragubba said 120 members of the W&J met yesterday and voted for a fourth time to reject the ILUA.
“We will not negotiate [with Adani] any further,” he said. “No means no.”
Anger over the tribunal’s apparent backflip came after a letter from the tribunal sent to mine opponents and Adani in July, advising that “the registrar intends to await the outcome of the Federal Court proceedings” before signing off on the ILUA.
Lawyers for Adani immediately pushed for the registrar to approve the ILUA without waiting for the Federal Court ruling.
In papers filed with the tribunal, Adani’s lawyers argued the court case was “not an administrative or legal impediment to the registration of the Adani ILUA”.
They argued that formalising the deal “will not affect the relief that may be granted” by the Federal Court or the right of the mine opponents to seek judicial review if the registrar approves the deal.
The lawyers argued Adani “will be prejudiced” by further delays to the ILUA because the miner “will be prevented from acting in reliance on [it] for an indefinite and potentially long period of time”.
The ILUA is critical for Adani in gaining finance for the mine, as it shows Indigenous consent without which most of the world’s banks, under the Equator Principles, will not invest in resources projects.
Adani’s lawyers argued it was the same situation it had experienced when Queensland mines minister Anthony Lynham approved their mining leases, despite there being ongoing judicial review of them.