Sydney, April 3 (IANS) India's Adani Enterprises may soon start work on the mega Carmichael coal project in Australia after securing leases following the final environmental clearance by the government.
Australian Natural Resources and Mines Minister Anthony Lynham approved the grant of three individual mining leases for the $21.7 billion Carmichael coal, mine and rail project, media reports said on Sunday.
The three approved leases are 70441 Carmichael, 70505 Carmichael East and 70506 Carmichael North, which are estimated to contain 11 billion tonnes of thermal coal, theage.com.au reported.
The approvals come after Adani secured final environmental approval and reached an agreement on compensation with a landholder last month.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the approved leases have undergone "extensive government and community scrutiny" and were a step towards securing jobs for the region.
Adani has said that more than 5,000 jobs are expected to be generated during construction and more than 4,000 during operation of the project.
According to the report, Adani's job creation figures had been the subject of debate since last year after revelations in court found the mega mine would create only 1,464 jobs per year, and not the 10,000 figure that was commonly associated with the project.
"I know the people of north and central Queensland will welcome this latest progress for the potential jobs and economic development it brings closer for their communities," said Palaszczuk.
Welcoming the premier's announcement, Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani said: "This final key approval reflects the confidence both sides of politics, at both the national and state level, have in our commitment to delivering major projects that will help drive exports and jobs in Australia, while delivering energy security in India."
An Adani spokesman said that with the leases approved, the company hopes to start construction on the mine sometime next year.
"The granting of a mining lease helps deliver the company certainty with respect to timelines, while moving to the next phase of the project, subject to the resolution of legal challenges by politically-motivated activists," he said.
The spokesman added that the mine's approvals were the "strictest of their kind" for a major Australian resources project.
"It is for this reason that conclusion of second tier approvals and resolution of politically-motivated legal challenges is the company's principal focus, prior to a final investment decision being made," he said.
"Delivering low ash, low sulphur, lower emitting coal to thermal generators in India, while delivering jobs in regions crying out for them, and taxes and royalties to Queensland, is paramount," he said.
First proposed in 2010, the Carmichael project will dig up and transport about 60 million tonnes of coal a year for export, mostly to India.
The mine, which will cover an area seven times the size of Sydney Harbour and includes a railway project, was first approved by the government in 2014.
Last year, the Australian federal government gave fresh approval for the project, but soon faced a fresh legal challenge from an environmental group seeking its cancellation on grounds that it would damage the ecologically sensitive Great Barrier Reef