SYDNEY • An Australian court yesterday revoked approval for an Indian-backed project to build what could be one of the world's biggest coal mines, which environmentalists say threatens the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.
But while environment groups hailed the decision as another important step in the A$16.5 billion (S$16.8 billion) project's eventual demise, Indian firm Adani insisted it would go ahead.
"With the consent of the parties, the Federal Court has formally set aside the approval of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project," Australia's Environment Department said in a statement.
Environmental groups had challenged the government's approval of the mine on the basis of the amount of greenhouse gases it would create, its impact on vulnerable species and Adani's "poor environmental record".
They also protested against its impact on the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's most biodiverse marine areas, because the coal would be shipped out of a nearby port.
The court did not publish its reasons for revoking the approval. However, the Environment Department said the decision was made because there was a possibility the advice it had provided to Environment Minister Greg Hunt before he made his decision did not meet all technical requirements.
"This is a technical, administrative matter and to remove this doubt, the department has advised that the decision should be reconsidered," it said.
"Reconsidering the decision does not require revisiting the entire approval process."
The Environment Department expected it would take six to eight weeks to prepare new advice and supporting documentation and for Mr Hunt to reconsider his decision.
Adani said the decision was regrettable. However, it was committed to ensuring that its mine, rail and port projects in Queensland were developed and operated in accordance with Australian laws, including strict environmental conditions.
"We have been advised that, because certain documents were not presented by the department in finalising the approval, it created a technical legal vulnerability that is better to address now," it said.
Adani, which is in the fifth year of development and approvals for the massive project, said it was confident the conditions imposed on the original consent were robust and appropriate.