Environment Minister Melissa Price has granted federal approval to the controversial Adani coal mine following intense pressure from her Queensland colleagues to sign off on the plan before the federal election.
Ms Price announced on Tuesday that she had approved the groundwater management plans submitted by the Indian mining giant after CSIRO and Geoscience Australia found they met scientific requirements.
The decision means the company has cleared the final federal hurdle for the project and now only requires Queensland Government approvals to proceed.
If the plan was approved during the caretaker period, the government would have been forced to consult Labor before granting permission.
Queensland MPs in the Morrison government have been pressuring Ms Price to approve the plan before the election to appease voters who want the mine to proceed.
However it is understood that Liberal MPs in metropolitan seats, whose constituents are concerned about climate change, wanted the approval to be delayed.
Environmentalists say the Adani plan will damage aquifers in the Great Artesian Basin and ground-water dependent rivers and springs, as well as create water shortages for farmers and communities.
The Australian Conservation Foundation says the government's assessment has been subject to political interference and has warned that any approval may face a court challenge if rushed through before the election.
In a statement, Ms Price said CSIRO and Geoscience Australia "have confirmed the revised plans meet strict scientific requirements".
"Following this independent assessment and the Department of Environment and Energy's recommendation for approval, I have accepted the scientific advice and therefore approved the groundwater management plans," she said.
Ms Price said the project still required Queensland government approvals for nine environmental plans and "must meet further stringent conditions of approval from the Commonwealth before it can begin producing coal".
She said the project "has been subject to the most rigorous approval process of any mining project in Australia".
- SMH/The Age