IN PHOTO: A gila monster lizard, on the prowl for food, flicks out its tongue to test the air in its enclosure at the Melbourne Zoo June 11. Gila monsters belong to the heloderms or poisonous lizards and are native to North and Central America. The gila monsters' venom is supplied through ducts that empty into the lower jaw and collect near fangs with a sharp cutting edge and the poison is thought to be a defence mechanism. This adult lizard is part of the Zoo's successful and innovative breeding programme. WB/TAN

The federal court has overturned the proposal to build Australia’s largest coal mine, Carmichael coal mine, by Adani, ensuring a glorious victory for the environmentalists who opposed the project. The proposal has been dismissed after the court found that Environment Minister Greg Hunt had given approval to the project without considering the advice of his own department over two endangered species that would be affected by mining in that region.

The coal mining project in northern Queensland poses a number of threats to the environment, according to the protesting environmentalists. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a legal challenge was initiated by the Mackay Conservation Group in January on the grounds that the project was approved without consideration of factors such as greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal, which would affect the Great Barrier Reef immensely, and the protection of endangered species like the yakka skink and ornamental snake that inhabit the region. Adani’s environmental track records were also not taken into account during the approval process.

"The Minister conceded that he had made an error and Adani did as well that the proper process hadn't been followed in approving the Carmichael mine," Mackay Conservation Group coordinator Ellen Roberts said, adding that the verdict of the Federal Court which overthrew Hunt’s approval was “a victory for land and water, biodiversity, the global climate and also for common sense”.

Adani, the Indian mining giant, is yet to secure enough funding to begin the project and has already cut down on its manpower without any legal authority to back the construction. “This kind of error in the decision-making process is legally fatal to the minister’s decision,” said Sue Higginson, the principal solicitor at the Environmental Defenders Office NSW, which oversaw the case for the conservationists. “The conservation advices were approved by the minister in April last year, and described the threats to the survival of these threatened species, which are found only in Queensland,”

Adani mining has said in a press release that it is unfortunate that a “technical legal error” from the Federal Environment Department has exposed the approval process to an adverse decision. “It should be noted the approval did include appropriate conditions to manage the species protection of the yakka skink and ornamental snake,” it said.

"This is a technical, administrative matter and to remove this doubt, the department has advised that the decision should be reconsidered," the Environment Department said in a statement. "Reconsidering the decision does not require revisiting the entire approval process."

The mine is now without legal authority to commence construction or operate. Higginson says it will now be up to the Minister to decide whether to approve the mine or not, while taking into account the conservation advices as well as any other information on the impacts the project may have.

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