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The Australian Government has approved the A$16.5bn Carmichael coal mine and rail infrastructure project in the Galilee Basin but imposed 36 conditions to safeguard the surrounding natural resources.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said that: "A rigorous, open and thorough environmental assessment process was undertaken to take account of the public interest in the project."

The Carmichael project, which is being developed by the India-based Adani Group, is located in the north Galilee Basin in Queensland.

The project is being opposed by environmental groups for the impacts it is likely to have on groundwater and on the World Heritage-listed the Great Barrier Reef, in addition to a rise in carbon emissions.

The environmental conditions imposed by the government require the operator Adani Mining to return a minimum of 730 megalitres of water to the Great Artesian Basin every year for five years; monitor the changes in groundwater; and contribute funding to address cumulative impacts to threatened species and communities.

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Hunt said: "These 36 conditions complement the conditions imposed by the Queensland Government, and will ensure the proponent meets the highest environmental standards and that all impacts, including cumulative impacts, are avoided, mitigated or offset."

"History will look back on the Abbott Government’s decision today as an act of climate criminality."

The Carmichael project includes six open cut pits and five underground mines, a coal handling and processing plant and a 189km rail line. It is expected to create 2,475 construction and 3,920 operational jobs.

Termed to be the largest mine in the country, the project is estimated to produce 60 million tonnes (Mt) of thermal coal a year, which will primarily be exported to India.

A rail line will be built from the mine to the existing Goonyella Rail System to export coal via the Port of Abbot Point and the Port of Hay Point.

Production at the mine is estimated to result in the emission of around 130Mt of carbon dioxide each year.

The environmental organisations fear that the approval to the Carmichael mine will result in the opening up of the region for coal mining, with nine projects being already planned.

The Greens senator Larissa Waters said: "History will look back on the Abbott Government’s decision today as an act of climate criminality."

According to Australian Marine Conservation, the mine will increase the traffic in the reef by more than 460 ships, thereby damaging the marine life in the reef.

Image: Environmental groups fear the project to have an impact on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Public domain.