Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche believes a shift to junior players in the Bowen Basin may create more work for those in the mining equipment, technology and services (MET) sector. Photo: Emily Smith
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche believes a shift to junior players in the Bowen Basin may create more work for those in the mining equipment, technology and services (MET) sector. Photo: Emily Smith

New water legislation could open doors for more Adani court appeals

MAJOR mining projects like Adani's Carmichael coal mine, which have already gone through rigorous approval processes, could be subjected to more open-ended court appeals due to new legislation.

The new legislation introduced in State Parliament yesterday aims to regulate groundwater use in the resources industry.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche has raised alarms that the legislation transition process was being pushed fast by the State Government - so fast that it could open the door for more court appeals against major mining projects that have already been through a rigorous approval process.

"We are looking at the laws as introduced and transitional arrangements to fully consider their impacts," an Adani spokesperson said.

Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow last called on State and Federal Governments to introduce legislation that would stop the 'revolving door of court cases against Adani'.

"What we need is for other levels of Government to step up to the plate to put an end to this revolving door of court cases and to embrace an opportunity which will see cleaner coal delivered to the up-and-coming powerhouse of India," Cr Strelow said.

Environment Minister Steven Miles introduced the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill yesterday in parliament.

"This bill strengthens the assessment of environmental impacts related to groundwater take by resource activities," he said.

"In doing so, this bill modifies the framework established by the Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 - known as the WROLA."

Mr Miles said the legislation meant in the future, the environmental impacts of groundwater extraction by any mining operator will be addressed by this process rather than through a water licence - streamlining the process for the mining industry.

"The bill requires underground water impact reports to include additional information about impacts on environmental values resulting from resulting from the exercise of underground water rights," he said.

Mr Miles said the bill also protects the interests of farmers and other landholders whose groundwater was impacted by resource industry activities by improving the existing make-good obligations in the Water Act 2000.

"Most important for many farmers, this bill ensures that make-good obligations will be triggered if a bore is impaired by free gas," he said.

"Free gas is formed during coal seam gas production when the released gas migrates from areas of high pressure to low pressure."

Mr Roche said the standout issue about this Bill from a QRC viewpoint was the need for a transitional process that properly and fairly handles the situation of advanced mining projects that have already come through rigorous EIS processes.

"The transitional process outlined in the Bill is difficult to support if it creates a new risk of open-ended court appeals or an opportunity for activists to try to reopen approvals that were granted in the past," he said.

"With Queensland's new water laws due to commence on December 6, it is difficult to understand, why the Bill's largely sensible reforms are being proposed so late in the day. Equally, it is difficult to understand why the Bill will rely on the Parliamentary Committee process as a basis for community consultation."

The Queensland Resources Council is not anti the regulation of groundwater use in the resources industry.

"The regulation of groundwater use in the resources industry has been developing quickly over the past few years," Mr Roche said.

"As the Coordinator General has made decisions on coordinated resource projects and the Land Court has made recommendations about specific groundwater conditions, industry practice has got well ahead of the current regulatory minimum."

He said the Bill sets out a clear path for new resource projects to apply for access to groundwater as part of an integrated environmental impact statement.

"Once the detail is filled in, the Bill offers the promise of a clear streamlining of the regulatory process for resource projects and their community stakeholders alike," Mr Roche said.

"The rigor of Queensland's environmental impact assessments are recognised globally and industry welcomes the opportunity to better integrate groundwater assessments into this process for all new resource projects. The industry has a good story to tell about how we manage groundwater use to deliver the highest and best use of this precious resource."



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