A federal environment department investigation into Adani’s failure to disclose its CEO’s link to a mining company convicted of causing serious environmental harm says the failure to disclose “may have been negligent”. But knowledge of the link would not have altered the decision to grant Carmichael mine ministerial approval, an internal document says.
The document, released to the ABC following a freedom of information request to the federal environment department, is the summary of an investigation conducted by the department following the revelation that the chief executive of Adani Mining, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, had charge of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Zambia when the company pleaded guilty to serious environmental offences, including polluting the major river.
The company has no link to Adani apart from Janakaraj’s work history. Janakaraj himself was not charged but was responsible for overall operations at the mine for at least a period of his tenure with the company.
In 2015, before granting federal approval for the $16bn Carmichael coalmine and rail project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, the department wrote to the company to ask if any of its executives had “been the subject of any civil or criminal penalties or compliance-related findings, for breaches of, or noncompliance with environmental laws … [and] information about his or her roles both in Australia and in other countries”.
Adani’s response failed to mention Janakaraj’s involvement with KCM.
The department’s compliance report, dated 18 December 2015, said it began investigating Adani’s failure to disclose after it was reported by the ABC and found that: “Adani Mining Pty Ltd may have been negligent in failing to disclose a complete account of one of its executive officers in relation to environmental matters.”
Adani Mining is an Australian subsidiary of the Adani Group, an Indian multinational.
Failing to disclose information upon request, or being negligent about whether material is false or misleading, is an offence under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.
However, the compliance report said the department “found no evidence that would establish, beyond reasonable doubt as the law requires, that Adani Mining Pty Ltd was reckless in its actions.”
It also found that if that information had been provided to the department prior to the project getting federal environmental approval, “there would not have been a material change to the recommendations made to [the environment minister] with respect to the decision you made on this project”.
“This means that the company’s failure to disclose relevant information would not have resulted in an obvious benefit or advantage,” the report said.
The Department of Environment and Energy confirmed on Tuesday that it wrote to Adani “cautioning that the findings of the department’s review, and Adani’s admission, will be taken into account for any future actions under the act”.
But in a statement to Guardian Australia, Adani said it did not receive a caution.
“The assessment we received from the department stated: ‘Our assessment concluded that the omission did not result in environmental harm and, further, that the 36 conditions imposed under the EPBC Act on the Carmichael coalmine and rail project will ensure that Adani will meet the highest environmental standards; the omission was likely due to a mistake and Adani officials provided full cooperation,’” an Adani spokeswoman said.
“The Adani Group has at no time been connected with the Konkola Copper Mine or its listed parent company Vendanta Resources.”
The federal Labor party appears ready to withdraw its support for Adani’s controversial Carmichael mine project, which Labor strategists believe is hurting the party in the polls as far south as Victoria.
Bill Shorten this month called for an investigation into reports Adani had submitted an altered laboratory report in appealing a $12,000 fine for contaminating wetlands in Queensland in March 2017.