Environmentalists have accused the Queensland government of knowing that coal mining company Adani would release unlawful amounts of polluted water into the Great Barrier Reef when Cyclone Debbie hit overflowing storage pools in 2017.
The details were revealed in documents and emails obtained by the Mackay Conservation Group using freedom of information laws, as reported by ABC.
Adani fought for a year to keep the material secret.
Satellite images show sensitive wetlands near the Abbott Point coal export terminal were contaminated by coal-laden polluted water after the storm brought flooding rain to South East Queensland.
Emails show Adani applied for a last-minute extension to its government-issued temporary pollution licence, appearing to indicate that it knew the water it was likely to dump was much dirtier than allowed.
However, tests showed water contained sediment eight times above temporarily authorised levels.
Adani faced a fine of up to $3.8 million but last year was given a penalty of $12,190 – which it has contested.
Peter McCallum, the coordinator for the Mackay Conservation Group, said the documents and emails showed that the company knew it would break the law.
“They show that Adani was fully aware of a serious breach of pollution at Abbott Point,” he told NITV News.
He pointed out that the port which Adani has to significantly expand operations is frequently subject to severe weather.
“It shows that Adani doesn’t really care enough to do things like storm-proofing their port to protect those internationally important wetlands nearby or the Great Barrier Reef.”
He has called for the Queensland government to police environment laws more effectively.
“Adani is overriding the groups of Traditional Owners and they’re overriding the environmental restrictions put on them,” he said.
“The government is letting them get away with it."