Australia: Indigenous opponents of Adani's Carmichael mine to intensify court battle

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Wangan and Jagalingou people vow to ‘take the fight up a notch’ after mine’s endorsement by Queensland parliament.

Representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou people, the traditional owners of the site of Australia’s largest proposed coalmine, are considering a series of high court and federal court actions to broaden their unfolding battle against the Indian miner.

Adani’s failure to secure an Indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) with the Wangan and Jagalingou continues to pose a key obstacle for the project, as financiers may be reluctant to invest because of the risk of being exposed to legal action around native title rights.

Adani on Wednesday announced it had finalised compensation agreements with landholders on the site, overcoming another hurdle to gaining a mining lease from the Queensland government.

Queensland’s mining minister, Anthony Lynham, cited the importance of securing those agreements in parliament on Tuesday, where the Palaszczuk government supported a motion by the Liberal National opposition calling for approval of the $21.7bn project.

But members of the Wangan and Jagalingou people hours earlier flagged their continued resistance to Adani, saying they would “take the fight up a notch”.

Guardian Australia understands Wangan and Jagalingou representatives are exploring grounds for a new high court action, separate from an unresolved federal court challenge to a native title tribunal ruling that the Queensland government can override the group’s native title rights and approve the mining lease in the public interest.

Wangan and Jagalingou representatives are also considering a separate federal court action around Adani’s attempts to negotiate an ILUA, which they claim are “unauthorised and invalid”.Without an ILUA, the project draws the risk of future legal action because the Queensland government would need to extinguish or impair native title rights to issue a mining lease to a private company.

In an online post on Tuesday, Wangan and Jagalingou representatives including current federal court challenger Adrian Burragubba accused the miner of being “rude and obstinate – so we will take the fight up a notch”.

“We are planning more action in the courts and will take this fight all the way,” it said.

Adani suffered a blow to a cornerstone of its north Queensland project, its investment in the related Abbot Point coal terminal, on Monday.

Global ratings house Moody’s downgraded its credit rating and noted a “negative outlook” for the port, which is likely to affect its ability to borrow money to expand the port to put through coal from the Carmichael mine.

Moody’s cited an “ongoing severe pressure facing the coal sector” that made cash-flow problems for Adani more likely as other miners using the port risked going to the wall amid a glum outlook for coal prices.“Moody’s believes that the current coal market downturn is structural in nature, with weak conditions likely to persist,” it said.

“Such conditions will continually erode the [Adani customers’] financial capacity over time, increasing the likelihood of a default.”

The fact other miners were not using its full 50m tonne a year capacity meant investors in Adani’s port enterprise risked “lower recovery rates … in the hypothetical event” of it defaulting.Lynham told parliament the government’s position remained that it would not allow dredging for Abbot Point “until Adani demonstrates it has the necessary finance in place for the full mine, rail and port project”.

But it “strongly supports the sustainable development of the Galilee Basin for the jobs and economic development it could provide for regional Queensland”, he said.

“For that reason the government and the independent coordinator general have been working closely with Adani to facilitate their approvals in accordance with statutory obligations,” he said.

But the projects’ mining leases could only be approved when compensation agreements were reached, he said.

The chief executive of the Queensland resources council, Michael Roche, said on Wednesday the finalisation of compensation agreements was “yet another milestone as these important projects continue to progress”.

“And as the QRC has regularly stated, these important economic opportunities benefit all Queenslanders, not just those in the regions,” Roche said.

The LNP said it had successfully pressured the government to support the motion after Lynham had “dragged the chain on granting a mining lease”.

The opposition’s state development and mines spokesman, Andrew Cripps, said consideration of the mining lease would have been completed “as a matter of urgency and the project could have been up and running long ago” were the LNP still in power.

“It was the LNP who gave approval to the Carmichael mine after two years of Adani’s negotiations going nowhere with the previous Bligh Labor government, which was also captured by green activist groups,” Cripps said.


More about Carmichael Coal Mine Case HERE