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Adani’s Australia coal mine hits environmental legal snag; court revokes approval

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Sydney: An Australian court on Wednesday revoked the government’s environmental approval for one of the world’s biggest coal mines under construction in the Australian outback by Indian conglomerate Adani Mining.

Environmentalists hailed the ruling against the controversial Carmichael mine as another setback for the project, estimated to cost up to $16 billion, which they say threatens two vulnerable species and will endanger the Great Barrier Reef.

Adani, which recently suspended work in a number of areas on the mine as it awaits government approvals, attributed the ruling to a “technical legal error” and said it was confident the matter would be rectified.

The Federal court ruled that the environmental approval granted to Adani in July 2014 by Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s office failed to include conditions to protect the yakka skink and ornamental snake.

The Environment Department said Hunt would reconsider his approval in six to eight weeks, after taking into account an assessment of the impact on the two species.

The challenge was launched by Mackay Conservation Group in January.

Adani, which wants to ship millions tonnes of coal a year to India, has battled environmental opposition since starting work on the mine five years ago.

“It’s not project dead because of a stuff up by the environment department,” Adani spokesman Andrew Porter told Reuters.

Proponents argue the project is needed if Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to keep his promise to bring electricity to hundreds of millions of people presently living off the grid.

In April, French banks BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole said they did not intend to provide financing for coal mining in the Galilee Basin, joining several other European banks that have ruled out involvement on environmental grounds.

Adani rival GVK is also seeking approvals to dig a mine in the basin, a 247,000-square kilometere expanse in north-eastern Australia.

Adani said in a statement emailed to Reuters that it had been advised that a “technical legal vulnerability” had arisen because certain documents were not presented by the environment department in finalising the approval.

“Adani is confident the conditions imposed on the existing approval are robust and appropriate once the technicality is addressed,” the company said.

The Environment Department said a “technical administrative matter” had arisen in the way advice was provided to the minister.

“Without pre-empting a final decision about the project, the department expects that it will take six to eight weeks to prepare its advice and the supporting documentation, and for the minister to reconsider his final decision,” the department said on its website.

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