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Leading Experts Warn Adani's Groundwater Plan Is 'Severly Flawed'

Doongmabulla springs, Galilee Basin. Credit: Tom Jefferson

A new report has found that Doongmabulla Springs is at risk of drying up if Adani's planned Carmichael coal mine goes ahead.

Seven of Australia's leading experts from four different universities, have delivered the comprehensive joint report, which indicates the Indian mining giant has significantly under-estimated its future impacts on the nearby wetlands.

Hydrogeology Professor Adrian Werner said they are hoping the State Government will take his new info into consideration before it hands down its final approval on Thursday (June 13).  

Professor Werner, who is originally from Rockhampton, has spent a lot of time in Emerald, even working there for a few months during his Engineering Degree.  He said there can be criticism of 'experts' commenting on projects like this one, but he stresses that he knows Central Queensland well. 

Mr Werner said the Springs are an ancient eco system that support many endemic species, they also have high cultural heritage values and they're quite rare, in terms of an ecosystem being located in an otherwise dry environment.

He added "the groundwater that comes out there supports ecosystems that supports species not found anywhere else".

"And in terms of environments that rely on groundwater, these kinds of ecosystems are hard to replace and once the groundwater stops flowing, often it's impossible to reinstate them, so impacts to these kinds of systems can be permanent.

He said, should the Carmichael Mine cause springs within the Doongmabulla Springs Complex to cease flowing, the impact could be permanent.

The safeguard against Doongmabulla Springs Complex impacts proposed by Adani, namely Adaptive Management, is unsuitable and unlikely to protect the springs from extinction.

Cumulative impacts to the Doongmabulla Springs Complex that may result from other mining activities in the Galilee Basin have not been adequately considered.

Professor Werner also said, “our research shows Adani’s water science is severely flawed and risks the extinction of the ancient Doongmabulla Springs Complex and the flora and fauna that depend on it.

“Adani has underestimated the likely impacts to the springs by adopting highly unrealistic parameters in their calculations while their modelling is riddled with uncertainties.

“If we allow Adani to drain billions of litres of water with this groundwater plan then we are effectively playing Russian roulette with the very existence of a million-year-old ecosystem.”

“Between us, we have scrutinised multiple groundwater plans for major projects across the country. Adani’s water science is not up to scratch. It doesn’t stack up against the science, and risks permanent damage to the aquifer.”

Mr Werner said they have been reviewing reports relating to Adani's groundwater management plan and have visited the site to do some sampling of their own.

"What we've found is Adani's water science is wrong, and risks the extinction of the springs and wildlife system.

He said it has some "key deficiencies".

"We believe the Queensland Government should understand the risks within the Science to make any decisions around Doongmabulla Springs.

Mr Werner said Adani has an Environmental Management Plan and a Groundwater plan, which forces them to monitor the impact of the mine and change their management activities according to the impacts that arise.

But he said the view of the scientists is that the "adapted management approach, that they are supposed to use, is unsuitable" to protect and save the Springs.

Adani's approvals for their Groundwater Management Plan are due back from the State Government on Thursday. Mr Werner said his comments are a response to the CSIRO and GeoSciences Australia's earlier findings.

The CSIRO recommended water chemistry be analysed Doongmabulla Springs, so they carried out their own research and found that Adani's findings are incorrect.

He said the cumulative impact must also be taken into account, as Adani's Carmichael coal mine isn't the only project planned for the Galilee Basin.

He labelled Adani's management plan 'scientifically-deficient'. 

Dr Matthew Currell, an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering said, “Serious concerns about Adani’s technical understanding of the groundwater and ability to show how they will protect the localised springs have been raised by experts since 2013, yet they remain unresolved.

“We offer the Queensland Government our assistance to determine the best approach to understand the likely impacts of the Carmichael mine on the springs, and to regional groundwater users.”'

An Adani spokesperson said “The Department of Environment and Science has been reviewing the groundwater management plans for more than two years, across 11 versions. In addition, pre-eminent scientific bodies CSIRO and Geoscience Australia have also conducted reviews of the groundwater management plans".  

“We’ll pay attention to the experts and reputable advice of those who have been involved throughout this process, including the CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, the Federal Department of Environment and Energy and the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, as they are the authority as it pertains to the review and finalisation process.”