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Carmichael coal mine threatens irreversible damage to Doongmabulla Springs and local ecology says new study


Doongmabulla Springs threatened by Carmichael mine

New hydrology research from Flinders and Darwin Universities highlights the Bravus (formerly Adani) Carmichael Coal mine being develeped in the Galilee Basin of Central Queensland may permanently damage the Doongmabulla Springs and the acquifer water it depends upon, and with it local ecosystems.

The natural springs are environmentally significant and are also of great spiritual and cultural significance to the Wangan and Jagalingou Indigenous nation.

Groundwater scientists warn more research is needed to measure and fully understand the aquifer sources that feed the springs.

“Even if the springs’ source aquifer is partially dewatered for mining operations, there is a serious threat of permanent damage,” says Flinders University PhD candidate Mr Robin Keegan-Treloar, the lead author of a new paper in the international Journal of Hydrology.

“Our study expands on existing water level data, undertaking the most rigorous analysis so far, and even now we cannot definitively identify the source of water to the springs.

Mr Keegan-Treloar says that without better knowledge of the hydrogeology of the area, the springs are at risk of “irreversible decline.”

“These concerns have been raised in this study, as well as CSIRO and Geoscience Australia studies, about threats to the springs from the Carmichael mine,” he says.

Despite previous warnings (see Nature: Science sidelined in approval of Australia’s largest coal mine ), and remaining uncertainties over the effects of nearby mining operations, the mine is still going ahead, says senior author, Flinders University Professor Adrian Werner, from the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training.

“These findings have important implications given that the Permian Formations will be dewatered by the operation of the nearby Carmichael coal mine,” Professor Werner says.

“Lowering the uncertainty of permanent damage to the springs will require new drilling and seismic studies to adequately identify the hydrogeological regime between the mine site and the springs.”

Researchers are doing follow-up studies using water chemistry, geophysics and numerical modelling.

“The latest study have important implications given that the Permian Formations will be dewatered by the operation of the nearby mine,” Mr Keegan-Treloar says. “Lowering the uncertainty of permanent damage to the springs will require new drilling and seismic studies to adequately identify the hydrogeological regime between the mine site and the springs.”

Black Throated Finch habitat being destroyed, no adequate conservation plan

The local area of the Springs and the Carmichael mine site provides the best habitat for the endangered species, the Black Throated Finch.

The Brisbane Times reports that Official counts of the black-throated finch at the Carmichael coal mine site recorded an 82 per cent drop between 2019 and 2020, according to the first official survey conducted for Adani.

An independent scientific panel report from 2019 concluded that Adani’s conservation plans for the endangered black-throated finch were “superficial” and not backed by evidence. The report has never been publicly released by the Queensland Government, according to a report in The Guardian.

The expert panel concluded that Adani’s initial plan “does not meet the content requirements of an acceptable plan to manage an endangered species”.

“There is little empirical evidence that conservation actions outlined in the [management plan] will be effective in supporting black-throated finch conservation,” the report stated, according to The Guardian.

A Birdlife Australia report on Adani’s Black-throated Finch Management Plan was prepared by Dr April Reside, a lecturer at the University of Queensland. 

Dr Reside said, “The Black-throated Finch has lost almost 90% of its original habitat. There is little that can be done to compensate for the clearing of more habitat, as has been approved for the Carmichael mine. ” 

“However, it’s clear from Adani’s Black-throated Finch Management Plan that they are falling short of adequate planning by not taking on expert recommendations.”  

BirdLife Australia Black-throated Finch project officer Stephanie Todd said: 

“The Queensland Government should not have approved this plan.  The clearing Black-throated Finch habitat urgently needs to stop until the management plan incorporates the recommendations of independent experts which have so far been ignored. “

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