Queensland authorities will investigate reports Indian mining giant Adani has drilled a number of bores at its controversial Carmichael coal mine without proper approval.
Environmental group Coast and Country made public high-resolution satellite and drone pictures showing the bores, which the group says threaten the integrity of the Great Artesian Basin at a time when half the country is in drought.
Adani says it welcomes any investigation and that the five bores are for the purpose of conducting groundwater investigations, and taking geological samples.
“We notified the regulator of our Plan of Operations for these Stage 1 project activities in 2017,” the company said in a statement.
“Adani Mining is not dewatering for mining operations. Drilling has been undertaken at the Carmichael mine site to take geological samples and monitor underground water levels and we have sent the regulator reports on these bores which are publicly available online.”
However, Sam Regester from activist group GetUp! said the pictures suggested Adani had overstepped the mark.
“Adani wants us to think this is one kind of activity when the evidence makes it very clear that it’s another,” Mr Regester said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the matter would be investigated as a “matter of priority” by the Department of Environment.
Adani said it was not aware of any investigation.
The Australian Conservation Foundation issued a statement on Wednesday, advising they had written to Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price asking for an investigation into the claims.
Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said environmental conditions imposed on Adani would only work if they were being strictly enforced.
“The public has a right to know what harm may have already occurred to the environment and what enforcement action the government will take,” Ms O’Shanassy said in a statement.
Environmentalists are concerned about the impact any bores on the Carmichael site in the Galilee Basin could have on the Great Artesian Basin, which is the source of groundwater for much of the region.
Specifically, it is feared any “dewatering” bores, which lower groundwater levels to make mining activities easier, could have a devastating effect on the nearby Doongmabulla Springs wetland area.