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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Adani's coal mine project in Australia runs into rough due to a lizard and snake !!

Mundra is  town in Kutch district in the Indian state of Gujarat. Mundra was well known for salt and spice trading in the past and now more for tie-dye and block-print textiles. In 1994, the Mundra Port was announced at Mundra. The operation started in October 1998. In subsequent years, the port expanded rapidly resulting in rapid expansion of town and population. During the January 2001 Gujarat earthquake, Mundra was the only place in the district of Kutch which was not affected by this devastation. Following earthquake, the tax incentives were granted for setting up new industries in this district which led to the rapid industrialisation of this region. In 2014, Mundra Port surpassed Kandla in cargo handling. 

Skinks are lizards belonging to the family Scincidae, which is one of the most diverse families of lizards.

Gautam Adani, is a business tycoon who is the chairman and founder ofAdani Group. According to Forbes, his personal wealth is estimated to be $7.1 billion as of  September 2014. 

Down under, environmentalists expressed delight over the ruling that adds impetus to their campaign to minimize the number of coal ships passing through the Great Barrier Reef area on their way to Asia by scuttling investments. “The scale and impacts of this mine mean it would be the most damaging in Australian history,” said Ellen Roberts, of the Mackay Conservation Group.   The reference is to the ‘Carmichael coal mine’-  a proposed thermal coal mine in the north of the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland, Australia. It is expected to produce 60 million tonnes of coal a year and become the largest coal mine in Australia. Mining is planned to be conducted by both open-cut and underground methods.

It is owned by Adani Mining, a wholly owned subsidiary of India's Adani Group. The development represents a $16.5 billion investment. The mine is expected to have an operating life of approximately 90 years. In total the mine is expected to extract 4 billion tonnes of coal resource. Exports are to leave Australia,  via port facilities at Hay Point and Abbot Point after being transported to the coast via rail. A new rail line is to be built which will connect with the existing Goonyella railway line. Most of the exported coal is planned to be shipped to India.

All of that has come to a stop !  - approval for the largest coal mine in Australia has been overturned by the Federal Courts after it was found that the Minister for Environment did not adequately consider the fate of two vulnerable native species who call the region home.Environmental approval for Adani's Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland's Galilee Basin was declared invalid on Wednesday after it was ruled that Environment Minister Greg Hunt did not consider advice presented to him about the yakka skink and the ornamental snake.

The yakka skink may be little known globally, but the native Australian lizard is causing problems for one of India’s biggest conglomerates.Adani blamed Wednesday’s decision on red tape. Environment Minister Greg Huntapproved the mining project last year, but it was overturned because of what the environment department termed a “technical, administrative” issue. It said its advice to Mr. Hunt during the approval process may not have been provided in the correct manner.

So it is the rare Yakka skink lizard and ornamental snake that have stalled Adani’s mining.  The Guardian reported that the federal government has said it will take between six and eight weeks to revisit and reconsider its decision. The government described the decision of the court as a “technical, administrative matter”, implying that the issue is really whether Hunt considered the impact of the project on the two species, and that its review process will assess this.

The Mackay Conservation Group filed the case  in January 2015, challenged the approval on three grounds: that the minister incorrectly assessed its climate impacts, ignored Adani's poor environmental record, and failed to consider conservation advice from his own department on the impact of the mine on the two vulnerable species.Hunt conceded to the court that he failed in his duty to properly assess the project in accordance with his obligations under federal environmental legislation.

“It is regrettable that a technical legal error from the federal environment department has exposed the approval to an adverse decision. It should be noted the approval did include appropriate conditions to manage the species protection of the yakka skink and ornamental snake,“ said an Adani statement, adding that “we have been advised that, because certain documents were not presented by the department in finalising the approval, it created a technical legal vulnerability that is better to address now”.

Tailpiece :  the port that we saw in initial paras, Mundra, is the largest private port of India located on the north shores of the Gulf of Kutch. Earlier it was operated by Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone Limited (MPSEZ) owned by Adani Group, which later  was expanded into Adani Ports & SEZ Limited (APSEZ) managing several ports.  The Port is a private port as also a Special economic zone.   Gautam Adani is recognised for established the modern Mundra Port which was selected as best port in 2006 by Lloyds.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

6th Aug 2015.

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