The Mackay Environment Group has published photos of coal-laden water spilling into wetlands from Adani’s Abbot Point terminal near the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
The pictures show coal-laden water flowing from the terminal’s settlement ponds into the Caley Valley wetland.
It is unclear whether or not the water is a breach of regulations as Adani has a temporary emissions license following Cyclone Debbie. The cyclone hit the area late March and early April. It was the strongest tropical cyclone in the Australian region since Cyclone Quang in 2015.
The license temporarily increases the release limits for total suspended solids in water from 30 mg/L to 100 mg/L.
“These images show the lack of capacity Adani has to operate in a sensitive environment,” said Mackay Conservation Group co-ordinator, Peter McCallum.
“Adani wants to build a new coal terminal at the port that will involve extensive dredging in Great Barrier Reef waters, then pile the waste rock and mud alongside these wetlands. That will put the wetlands and the reef under even greater threat.
“It’s obvious that Adani doesn’t know how to manage its existing facilities in a way that will protect the wetlands, or perhaps the company just doesn’t care,” he said.
The group has asked Queensland’s Environment Minister to provide more information on the volume of coal spilled into the wetlands, how the government intends to rehabilitate them and whether steps will be taken to prosecute for any environmental damage.
The 5,000 hectare wetlands are home to more than 40,000 shorebirds during the wet season and more than 200 different species had been identified there.
Adani’s terminal is located on the edge of the Reef, about 19 kilometers away from the closest coral.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce dismissed claims that the Abbot Point port poses a serious environmental threat, blaming the coal sediment on Cyclone Debbie and labelling the wetlands a "swamp" built for duck shooters. "If you go for zero risk, then we can just pack up and go home," he told local media.
However, the images have called into question a potential $1 billion ($750 million) Australian government loan to Adani for its proposed Carmichael coal mine that would result in the terminal’s expansion.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with Adani executives in India this week to advocate for the launch of the mine. Turnbull reportedly assured Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani that the issue of Native Title would soon be resolved. If it goes ahead, the A$21 billion ($16 billion) project would become Australia's largest coal mine.
Joyce wants the Government to fund a A$900 million concessional loan to Adani for the railway that would link the mine to the Abbot Point terminal.