SYDNEY, June 13 (Xinhua) -- A highly controversial Australian coal mine project has been granted final approval by the Queensland state Department of Environment and Science on Thursday, after almost nine years of delays.
The proposal for a coal mine at the Carmichael site in central Queensland's Galilee basin was first lodged by Indian mining giant Adani back in 2010.
But the debate about the environmental impact on the state's iconic Great Barrier Reef, left some experts and politicians concerned.
Among the biggest critics of the proposal is the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).
"As custodians of the world's greatest coral reef system, Queensland and Australia has to lead by example and show there's a bright future for everybody that's beyond coal. Instead, they've approved a new fossil fuel project which will put more pressure on our Reef," AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaigner Shani Tager said in a statement.
"Climate change is the greatest threat to the Reef's future and we cannot risk opening up the Galilee basin for other major coal projects which would heat our oceans and lead to more stress on our beautiful corals."
"The Reef is still a magnificent World Heritage icon and 64,000 tourism jobs depend on its health," she added.
But the major sticking point over the past two years for the state's regulatory departments has been Adani's groundwater management plan.
Denied the right to access one of the world's only untouched desert wetlands at the Doongmabulla Springs, the state's environment department on Thursday gave the green light for Adani to use water from the nearby Clematis Sandstone aquifer.
"This is confirmation the plan complies with all regulatory conditions set by the Australian and state governments, bringing to a close a two-year process of rigorous scientific inquiry, review and approvals. This includes relevant reviews by Australia's pre-eminent scientific organizations, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia," Adani Australia CEO Lucas Dow said in a statement.
Dow added that "our priority is ensuring the safety of everyone who works on the project and that all construction activity meets the strict environmental requirements we have agreed to meet in our management plans and approvals."
While the long-running saga now finally appears to be over, in an address to Parliament today the Queensland state Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch was making no apologies for the delays.
"At times the robustness of the process has attracted criticism from those in the media and the community who would have liked a quicker decision," she said.
"But the people of Queensland have a right to expect that the government takes a responsible approach to environmental protection, upholds the law and supports decisions based on the best available science."
"Our state has some of the most rigorous environmental protections in the country and we do not apologize for that."
According to Adani, the project will produce "1,500 direct and 6,750 indirect jobs during ramp up and construction, with Rockhampton and Townsville the primary hubs for employment."