Environmental activists say the Queensland Coordinator-General has failed to monitor erosion and sediment control measures at Bravus’s — formerly Adani’s — Carmichael Rail project, alleging further breaches have occurred.

Key points:

  • Environmentalists claim there have been further breaches of environmental controls at Bravus’s Carmichael Rail project
  • They say this is despite Queensland’s Coordinator-General saying they would monitor the project after a report into those controls earlier this year
  • Bravus has denied the claims, saying it is the latest in a series of attacks from the Mackay Conservation Group

In May, the Office of the Coordinator-General said there would be continued monitoring of the project to ensure full compliance, after a report deemed there were adequate measures in place to minimise erosion issues near the project, despite having potentially polluted a nearby waterway.

Now, legal firm Environmental Justice Australia, on behalf of the Mackay Conservation Group, has written to both the Coordinator-General and Deputy Premier Steven Miles of allegations of a new breach.

“The information provided … by two separate sources in the last month raises credible and serious concerns that the erosion and sediment control conditions imposed on the Adani rail project by the Coordinator-General at both the EIS and SDA approval phases are not being adhered to by Adani’s contractors,” the letter said.

The submission included several photographs captured from drones showing what the group claims is water moving across and beyond uncovered and disturbed soils along the rail corridor.

The rail line project will connect Bravus’s Carmichael Coal Mine to the Abbot Point Coal Terminal, with 200km of new track, supporting 1,400 jobs in its construction phase. 

A rail line construction project in regional Queensland

It’s claimed this image shows a lot of exposed soil with no evidence of sediment or erosion control works.(

Supplied: Frontline Action on Coal

)

The new complaint relates to a 2km section of the rail line project near Serpentine Creek and Glen Avon Rd, about 160km north of Clermont, very close to a section that was a part of the February complaint, which led to the report in May.

“We understand that these large tracts of soil [stretching approximately 2km] have remained exposed now for over a month,” the letter said.

But a Bravus Mining and Resources spokesperson described the claims as “baseless and false”.

A rail line under construction with a cloudy dam seen in the background

The Mackay Conservation Group claims dams seen in this image are holding a large amount of “very turbid” water, and there appears to be no specific measures in place to trap sediment.(

Supplied: Frontline Action on Coal

)

Tom Crothers, director of water resource management and rural water consulting group Stellar Advisory, was shown images by the Mackay Conservation Group from the original complaint in February, and again shown these new images.

“I didn’t observe much in the way of expected control works along the corridor, and those that I did observe are very small for the volumes of water which need to be managed,” he said.

He said if the water then got into natural depressions, streams, or creeks that sediment would be deposited into those waterways.

“If it discharges onto the adjoining pastoral land of the graziers there, there would certainly be some impact,” Mr Crothers said.

Mr Crothers said he did not observe “any real change” in sediment and erosion control between the images he saw as part of the February complaint and this new complaint.

Calls for Coordinator-General to take action

Mackay Conservation Group organiser Peter McCallum said it should not be up to environmentalists to monitor for alleged breaches.

“It’s really up to the state government to put people in their place and make sure that those rules are abided by, rather than relying on groups like ours to act as a watchdog and to provide them with information about breaches,” he said.

A rail line construction project in rural Queensland

The Mackay Conservation Group says this image shows there are no erosion control banks, water control banks, or vegetative control to stop soil erosion from water travelling along the rail corridor.(

Supplied: Frontline Action on Coal

)

He said he was alleging Bravus was not following the rules it had to abide by in its approvals.

“So we are urging the government to undertake an urgent investigation and, if necessary, halt the project until they are confident Adani will abide by the rules in the future,” he said.

“There are rules put in place to protect our waterways because we know that all those rivers in central Queensland flow to the Great Barrier Reef.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Coordinator-General said the Coordinator-General had received the letter from Environmental Justice Australia and was considering the material.

“The Office of the Coordinator-General and independent hydrology experts Water Technology conducted a site visit on [May 24–25] and the next site visit is planned for August 2021,” the spokesperson said.

A rail line construction project, showing a series of pipes running under the rain line

The Mackay Conservation Group says the large bank of pipes suggest a large quantity of water will move across the rail corridor, but small structures in this photo would be insufficient in managing the volumes of anticipated water, allowing sediment to be trapped.(

Supplied: Frontline Action on Coal

)

‘Decade-long misinformation campaign’ 

The Bravus spokesperson said the Queensland government had found the project’s sediment and erosion controls were adequate.

“We continue to operate with the necessary sediment and erosion controls required for our project,” the company said.

“The Mackay Conservation Group has a history of making baseless and false allegations.

“This is the latest tactic in a decade-long misinformation campaign by the anti-fossil-fuel movement in Australia to undermine the reputation of the Carmichael Project and halt or delay its construction.”

The spokesperson said the company took its environmental obligations seriously.

“We have erosion and sediment control measures in place at our construction sites to ensure we comply with our environmental approvals for daily operations and extreme weather events,” they said.

“We are subject to regular sediment and erosion inspections across our sites to ensure the quality of the controls, including inspections from the Office of the Coordinator-General.

Environmentalists claim pollution breaches at Bravus — formerly Adani — rail project
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