Why Adani is wrong in saying they did not pollute the Reef and Caley Valley Wetlands during Cyclone Debbie
Adani has repeatedly claimed it did nothing wrong in relation its management of Abbot Point coal terminal during Cyclone Debbie. The reality is that Adani did cause pollution. Here are the facts:
Temporary Emissions Licence
On 28 April 2017, the Department of Environment & Science (formerly Dept of Environment & Heritage Protection - DEHP) issued Adani with a retrospectively amended Temporary Emissions Licence for the company’s coal terminal at Abbot Point.
The licence permitted Adani to increase the concentration of contaminants flowing into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Caley Valley wetlands from the 30 milligrams per litre (mg/L) to 100mg/L.
Exceedance of TEL
After the cyclone Adani reported to the Queensland Government that the concentration of contaminants measured in water samples collected at the location that flowed into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (known as W2) was 806mg/L. Those samples were collected using an automated process. The concentration of contaminants exceeded the temporarily permitted limit by more than 800%.
At the other authorised location (called W1), which flowed into the Caley Valley Wetlands, samples were collected after staff returned to the site following the cyclone. At the time of collection the concentration was 80mg/L which was below the temporary limit. However, there were no samples collected during the event so nobody knows whether the limit was exceeded at any time while the licence was in operation.
On 3 May 2017 the head of Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Jim Reeves, said that Adani could face a penalty of $3.8 million for a wilful breach of its licence. However, on 20 July DEHP issued Adani with a $12,190 fine for the breach. On 24 August the ABC reported that Adani had informed DEHP that it would contest the fine. The government has until 7 September 2018 to decide whether to take the matter to court.
Public awareness of the coal spill followed aerial photographs taken after Cyclone Debbie indicating a significant flow of coal from stockpiles at the port into Caley Valley wetlands through release point W1. A July 2017 report by the Queensland government reports on a scientific assessment of the wetlands post Cyclone Debbie. Soil samples collected by the Queensland government were analysed by two companies, Australian Laboratory Services (ALS) and UQ Materials Performance (UQMP).
ALS analysed the samples using Australian Standards AS2856 Part 1 & 2 and found that coal made up 26.8% of the samples taken from Caley Valley shore and 15.4% of the samples from Caley Valley wetlands. The report says that these represent “quite a significant volume of coal”.
UQMP used an in-house analysis method and found that the samples contained 10% and 2% coal just near location W2 and trace contamination across the wetlands.
In Adani’s 27 August 2018 statement the company quotes a Queensland government report that says there is little visual evidence of coal fines across the entire wetland.
Mackay Conservation Group visited the Caley Valley wetlands on 27 & 28 April 2017 following an invitation from Queensland’s environment minister. We had been told that we would be able to collect soil samples at the site but on arrival people representing Adani told us we could not collect any samples or photographs. During our visit we observed significant coverage of coal fines in the parts of the wetland we were permitted to visit. The Queensland Government photo above shows significant coal contamination in the soil sample taken in the Caley Valley wetlands. More photos from the site inspection can be found here.
Adani has been required by the Queensland Government to undertake an environmental evaluation into the causes and impacts of the coal spill into the Caley Valley wetlands. Adani has appealed this requirement and the case will be heard in October 2018.
For a more extensive background document on this issue see this article on our website.
A Right To Information request by Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) has resulted in the release of previously secret documents which reveal that both Adani and the Queensland Government were well aware that water, containing high concentrations of pollutants, could be released from Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area during Cyclone Debbie, in breach of even the special licence to pollute that the Department of Environment issued at the time.
After the cyclone Adani admitted to breaching its Temporary Emissions Licence (TEL) by more than 800% of the amount of coal polluted water allowed to be released into the Reef coast. Adani subsequently spent a year attempting to block the release of documents that would reveal what the company knew about the concentration of pollutants that could flow into the environment. In agreeing to release the information, the Right to Information Commissioner criticised Adani’s arguments for blocking the documents as “too speculative or conjectural to form a reasonably based expectation” that it could prejudice an ongoing investigation into a possible contravention of the TEL.
Despite a clear breach of Adani’s licence to pollute, it is now sixteen months since the cyclone and it appears that the Queensland government has failed to yet launch proceedings to prosecute Adani for unlawfully releasing coal polluted water into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The latest advice from the Department is that it has until 7 September 2018 to launch a prosecution.
Meanwhile Adani is:
- challenging the Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) of $12,190 for the breach and, as part of proceedings, was alleged to have submitted an altered laboratory report about the concentration of contaminants released to the marine environment;
- appealing the Queensland Environment Department’s decision to require that they carry out an environmental investigation as a result of the discharge during the cyclone into the Caley Valley Wetlands at Abbot Point, to look at causes and impacts
- seeking approval from the Queensland government to increase the amount of coal that goes through its Abbot Point Port by 10 million tonnes per annum, yet failing to ensure its terminal is more storm proof and likely to pollute.
The previously secret documents, released under RTI are here. The judgment by the Queensland Information Commission is here.
An extensive blog on the pollution incident at Abbot Point, and how events unfolded, has been prepared by the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office and can be found here.Read more
A huge crowd marched through the main street of Mackay in the Walk for Water. Our government needs to listen to Queenslanders, and rule out wasting our water on Adani's mega-mine.
With over half of Queensland drought declared, we cannot afford to give billions of litres of water to Adani. Sign the petition to protect Qld's water now, and make sure you come along to the Stop Adani meetings on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month.
You can read more about the predicted impacts to water that the Adani mine will have here.
Check out more of the great photos...Read more
Every which way you look at it - water is life. Every cell of every thing needs water.
In Queensland we experience water in every form, from the very wet to the very dry but wherever you are, water is life. However, in the twists and turns of the Stop Adani campaign the issue of water is sometimes forgotten.
Our water is our lifeblood in Queensland and that's why so many people took action at the Walk for Water on the 16th of June and are signing the pledge calling for the cancellation of Adani's water licences.
Adani's Carmichael mine will drain at least 270 billion litres of groundwater over the life of the mine - that's four Sydney Harbours! Lock the Gate brought water management expert Tom Crothers to Mackay to explain the impacts that the mine could have on not only local landholders in the Galilee Basin, but to all those who rely on the Great Artesian Basin.
The drain on Qld water resources is just the beginning. The really concerning part is the lack of research that has been conducted to estimate the likelihood of damage to aquifers, sediment layers and neighbouring springs and therefore the impacts on water resources that regional communities desperately rely on in times of drought.
That's why a Motion of intent was passed by the crowd, calling on the Qld Government to cancel Adani's Water licence, so that precious regional water resources are protected.
Keep reading to find out more about how Adani's mine threatens Qld's vital water resources.Read more
World Water Day is a day to celebrate a truly precious resource and a day to learn more about how we can protect it.
This year the group focused on groundwater and in particular the potential impacts of opening up the Galilee Basin to mining.
Just this week a study was released with information suggesting that Adani's Carmichael mine could threaten the existence of the ecologically and culturally significant Doongmabulla Springs.
The springs are home to a number of endemic species, that would face extinction if the springs were sucked dry.
A group of dedicated volunteers waded deep into Adani's murky water licence and the predicted threats to groundwater on World Water Day and will take this information to the wider community. Read on for access to some great information resources.Read more
The Adani coal mine puts at risk water resources that are the lifeblood of Central Queensland.
Don’t stand by and watch Adani rob us of life-giving water.Read more
Veteran journalist, Dennis Atkins, wrote in the Courier Mail recently that Bill Shorten's equivocation on Adani could cost his party the next election. He says that there's no doubt that Adani is unpopular with voters and that "even some people in northern Queensland don’t like it."
A few months ago a dedicated group of volunteers surveyed people at local supermarkets to find out what Mackay residents thought about Adani. More than a few of us were surprised when the results came in. It wasn't a few people who don't like Adani. We found, after interviewing a statistically valid sample of around 250 residents, that:
- 77.2% opposed the NAIF loan for Adani
- 86.2% opposed unlimited water licences for Adani
- 85.4% opposed a royalties holiday for Adani
Another number that came out of the survey was in response to the question “Do you support or oppose new coal mines in Qld?” You would think that in a 'coal town' the number who support new coal mines would be high but we found that only 41.2% support new mines opening. Public opinion up here is not as clear cut as people in Canberra think.
Last week we premiered the brand new #StopAdani documentary A Mighty Force. With a combined membership of around two million people, the movement to stop Adani's unbankable mine will continue to grow and shift the politics on coal.
At the Mackay premiere of the Stop Adani documentary, A Mighty Force, local cane grower Michelle Ready explained to locals why she is so passionate about stopping Adani's mega-mine.
My name’s Michelle and I’m a farmer’s wife. I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ve taken time to do the research and have spoken with many, better informed people, including farmers who are at the coal face, so to speak. The farm we’re on has been in my husband’s family around 60 years, and we wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the groundwater. It provides all our domestic needs. On the farming side however, we’re lucky to have limited access to the creek, when the rains fail to come.
But there are farmers who aren’t as lucky as us, whose only reliable source is groundwater from the Galilee Basin, part of the Great Artesian Basin. Out there, at the Carmichael mine site, groundwater is everything, and it absolutely defies belief that our elected officials have decided to give it away, free and unlimited amounts of it, to a company with the most atrocious history of environmental degradation.
Coal mines require enormous amounts of water. I remember years ago hearing that wars would be fought over water, and I thought at the time, “no way there’s so much water, what’s the problem”. I was wrong. Farmers are the first to feel the effects of drought, and climate change, yet eventually everyone will. Look at Cape Town. Broken Hill.Read more
#StopAdani: A Mighty Force reveals an unstoppable movement for change in action.
This 30-minute documentary captures the power and passion of people taking extraordinary action to stop Adani from building one of the biggest coal mines in the world, on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef.
From remote central Queensland where the mine is proposed to be built, to rallies in metropolitan Melbourne and Sydney, this David and Goliath battle is one of the most determined and focused campaigns in Australia’s recent history.
Come and find out why so many people all over Australia, and right here in Mackay, are speaking out against Adani's unbankable mine!
Guest speaker and Mackay Cane Grower, Michelle Ready, features in the film and works to raise awareness of the importance of stopping Adani from draining precious water resources.
The film launches with the People’s Premiere in communities across Australia on Thursday 22 February - don't miss out on this huge local premiere!
- WHEN: Thursday 22nd Feb - 6:30pm
- WHERE: Mackay City Cinema, Gordon St Mackay.
- COST: $10 - including entry and a complimentary drink or pay at the door for $15 (cash only).
- Book your ticket now.