UPDATED 6 August 2015: The Commonwealth Bank said it would pull out as investor in Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, in news breaking just hours after the Federal Court rejected the government’s approval of the mine after a challenge by Mackay Conservation Group.
But in an extraordinary outburst Environment Minister Greg Hunt attacked environment groups for slowing the mine’s progress through the courts and vowed that loopholes preventing mining approvals would be closed.
The news on Wednesday was a double victory in a vehement campaign to stop one of the biggest and most dangerous mines on the planet from going ahead.
Before the Commonwealth Bank announcement the mine’s supporters claimed the court rejection of the approval was based on technical error and could be reversed. Their case would have been be far weaker by day’s end, but not for the legal reasons they anticipated.
There is growing global opposition to coal, falling coal prices, and growing investor reluctance to be seen backing an industry cited as one of the biggest contributors to climate change as the impacts of global warming become increasingly obvious.
The technical error used by campaigners to reverse approval for the mine centred on the Environment Minister’s failure to consider departmental advice about two threatened species.
The Australian Conservation Fund said Environment Minister Greg Hunt now had the “perfect opportunity” to reconsider his decision.
ACF president Geoff Cousins, well known for his campaign against the Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania, and a member of the Telstra Board, had been speaking to potential investors in Adani and explaining the environmental impact of the mine, ACF said. This included the potentially devastating impact on groundwater and the destruction of 10,000 hectares of the habitat for native wildlife, ACF said.
But Mr Hunt attacked Labor for not closing the environmental loopholes for mining and said it had put the issue in the “too hard basket.
“I have made the decision that needed to be make. I have to deal with the law and have to make those decisions as best I can according to the law. There are some people who said they will deliberately use the court process. We sought to remove some of those loopholes and Labor in the end indicated they wouldn’t do that” he told The Australian Financial Review.
Queensland’s mining minister Anthony Lynham said on Tuesday he was “extremely disappointed” today’s decision had happened on the federal government’s watch and vowed to help reverse the decision.
Dr Lynham told Sky News the incident was “a speed bump, rather than a death knell”.
“The state wouldn’t provide funding for the project, but didn’t rule out other incentives,” he said.
But it’s the incentives that only a financier can provide that will be the main decider now.