India's energy major Adani's USD 21.7 billion (Rs 145,390 crores) Carmichael coal and mine project in Australia, bogged down by opposition from green groups, will be fast-tracked by the Queensland government which called it a "critical infrastructure" for the state.
State Development Minister Anthony Lynham issued a statement on Sunday, saying the combined mine, rail and associated water infrastructure have all been declared "critical infrastructure" and the project's special "prescribed project" status has been renewed and expanded to include its water infrastructure.
Lynham said his decision would mean less red tape for the proposed project and the jobs and business opportunities it offered.
"This step bundles together major elements of the project for the first time -- the mine, the 389-km rail line, and the water infrastructure, including a pipeline, pumping stations and a dam upgrade," he said.
Lynham said the declaration was based on advice from the independent Coordinator-General, who continued to meet regularly with Adani for the progress of the project.
"When this government came to power in early 2015, it is fair to say that there was a long way to go with the approvals that Adani needed before they could start construction.
"Since then, 22 key Commonwealth, State and local government approvals have been granted to Adani's mine, rail and port facilities and there have been 29 key milestones reached," he said.
Lynham said Adani has now obtained all the necessary primary approvals for its mine, rail and port projects, including the important mining leases.
"At a state-level, the only key approvals remaining are water licenses and Adani is actively working on those with my Department of Natural Resources and Mines. I know that regional communities particularly will welcome the advice from Adani that construction of the project is set to begin in 2017," he said.
Lynham said the progress on the project had been achieved while protecting the Great Barrier Reef and meeting Queensland and Commonwealth environmental impact assessment requirements.
However, the latest decision has been criticised by Australian Greens Party, which said the state government's move to designate Adani coal mine, railway and water infrastructure as "critical infrastructure" was "reckless and short-sighted".
"Adani's mega-mine and the dredging at Abbot Point coal port will be a climate disaster and Reef destroyer if they go ahead," Australian Greens Deputy Leader and environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters said.
"In an age of global warming, extreme weather and mass coral bleaching, with clean energy alternatives waiting, it is just crazy to prioritise this giant coal mine that would turn the Reef into a coal ship highway. We know that Adani will likely pay no tax in Australia and will only generate a fraction of the jobs originally promised, 1,464, not 10,000," it claimed.
Image: Gautam Adani. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters