Oral Presentation NCGRT/IAH Australasian Groundwater Conference 2019

Evolution of groundwater concerns over the Carmichael Mine: 2014 to 2019 (223)

Adrian D. Werner 1 , Matthew J. Currell 2 , John A. Webb 3
  1. Flinders University, Bedford Park, SA, Australia
  2. School of Engineering, RMIT, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  3. Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia


In this presentation, we explore critical elements of the hydrogeological science and its evolution applied to the assessment of Carmichael Mine impacts over a five-year period – 2014-2019. The aim is to offer insights and lessons learned regarding the role of hydrogeological science throughout the approval process. 

Design and Methodology

Key scientific inputs relating to datasets, conceptual model design, and groundwater modelling are synthesised to provide a historical account of the scientific evolution throughout the approvals process.

Original data and results

The approval of the Carmichael Coal Mine by the Queensland Department for Environment and Science (13th June 2019) was the culmination of a lengthy journey by Adani though Federal and State approvals processes. During that time, groundwater-related concerns were raised, debated and reviewed at several junctures, most notably in relation to potential impacts to the nationally significant Doongmabulla Springs Complex (DSC). The approval process for the Carmichael Mine produced, arguably, the most polarizing, public display of hydrogeological debate in Australia’s history. Opinions on groundwater science were tested in public fora and the Queensland Land court, creating a time-stamped evolution of hydrogeological investigation and understanding regarding the likely future impact of the Carmichael Mine.


This presentation offers a rare audit of hydrogeological science applied at various stages of the assessment/approval of a large-scale and high-profile development with major implications for groundwater. 

  1. Currell MJ, Werner AD, McGrath C, Webb JA, Berkman M (2017) Problems with the application of hydrogeological science to regulation of Australian mining projects: Carmichael Mine and Doongmabulla Springs, Journal of Hydrology 548: 674-682, doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.03.031.
  2. Currell MJ, Werner AD (2019) Unpacking the flaws in Adani’s water management plan, The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/unpacking-the-flaws-in-adanis-water-management-plan-116161.