SAVE THE BIRDS: Black Throat Finches are facing endangerment in Queensland and researchers are concerned the new ADANI mine will only worsen the situation.
SAVE THE BIRDS: Black Throat Finches are facing endangerment in Queensland and researchers are concerned the new ADANI mine will only worsen the situation. Contributed

Adani Finch management plan approved

ADANI has cleared another environmental hurdle to build its Carmichael mine, with the Black-Throated Finch plan given the okay.

Adani now only needs one more final state approval to get on with its mine.

The Environment Department was given until today to either approve or deny the environment management plan after the Coordinator General was brought in by the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Adani is now awaiting an answer on its groundwater management plan, expected by June 13.

The Department of Environment and Science today released a statement informing of its decision.

"Assessment of this plan has been a rigorous process, informed by the best available science," it said.

"DES has met regularly with Adani to ensure that the plan is robust and is well-placed to deliver the best outcomes for the protection of the black-throated finch.

"This process has included an independent expert panel review of a previous version of the plan submitted in December 2018."

It said Adani had committed to additional undertakings to strengthen the plan to protect the endangered species.

They include:

- Establish enhanced understanding of the black-throated finch in the project area, including undertaking appropriate population studies,

- Establish appropriate monitoring protocols that will allow for an analysis of the black-throated finch population in the project area over time, and

- Manage the Ten Mile Bore area and surrounds in a manner that protects the black-throated finch, including a commitment to a low-grazing regime in that area.

DES is also satisfied that Adani will engage appropriately qualified ecologists to undertake the company's survey and monitoring work in relation to the Black-throated finch.

The statement said the Carmichael mine site represented Australia's most significant population of the endangered Black-throated finch (southern subspecies).

Further rolling deadlines for the mine are set from June to September around the issuing of leases and licences allowing rail construction and operation, a workers' camp and airport and the finalisation of a royalties deal.

Adani chief executive Lucas Dow last week said workers and equipment were already on site and construction of the mine and railway could begin within days of final approval.

Nearly 19,000 workers have applied for the estimated 1500 construction and ramp jobs expected over the next two years.

Adani is due to give a press conference on the latest development.

The Indian mining company would not say yesterday if it was confident of getting the green light on its strategy to safeguard the finch.

The Bob Brown Foundation responded to the news by describing the approval as a "deliberated extinction" of the finch.

"Today's decision that the beautiful black-throated finch should be sacrificed for billionaire Gautam Adani's coal mine shapes up as the second deliberated extinction in Australian history," a statement said.

It said the first was the shooting of the Tasmanian tiger for bounty in the 1800s.

"There are fewer black-throated finches in 2019 than there were tigers in 1888. The obliteration of the bird's stronghold in the Galilee Basin is the same as shooting them," it said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk last week intervened after Labor's shock loss at the federal election, with the party thumped in regional Queensland electorates that want Adani's jobs.

Days after the defeat she travelled to a coal terminal in Mackay to demand an end to the hold-ups, declaring she was fed up and that voters were too.

She ordered the co-ordinator-general to sit down with Adani and officials from her environment departmentand produce approval deadlines.

Conservationists and bird experts have warned the species could be sentenced to extinction if the mine proceeded.

The most important remaining stronghold for the bird is in the Galilee basin, on land Adani and others intend to mine.

"The majority of the black throated finch habitat has been cleared and suitable habitat declined to just 12 per cent of its original range," finch expert and University of Queensland researcher Dr April Reside said yesterday.

"This critical habitat for this bird species is disappearing, pushing it to the brink."

Earlier this month, a James Cook University-led review of contemporary studies on the finch found there are gaping holes in what's known about the bird.

The review found no one knows how many are left, exactly where they are living and how far they roam, meaning knowledge of the bird's optimal habitat is likely to be "biased or incomplete".

Adani could not say what time it would learn about the fate of its finch protection plan.

A deadline of June 13 has been set for a decision on the company's plan to manage groundwater.

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