Australians divided on Adani Carmicheal coal mine
Sydney,April1:The owners of the proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland are due to make a final decision on its future after six years of delay caused by legal challenges to the $21.7 billion project.
The State Government this week gave Adani the final approval it needs to go ahead with the mine, a water licence that will give it access to 9.5 billion litres of groundwater.
A Department of Natural Resources and Mines spokesman said modelling assessed by the department found up to 4.55 gigalitres of groundwater could be taken per year.
“In granting this licence, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines has carefully considered a broad range of information,” he told news.com.au in a statement.
He said Adani would have to fairly compensate landholders for impacts on water resources, and there were 100 conditions relating to groundwater.
On Friday, the head of Indian mining giant Adani said the company was ready to start construction this year.
Adani Mining chief executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj told a business lunch in Brisbane that the company expected to start engineering work on a rail line the mine needs to transport its coal to Abbott Point by June, and to start major construction by September.
While he was defending the mine against environmental concerns, about 200 protesters gathered outside the Hilton Hotel in Brisbane’s CBD to voice their opposition.
While the “lawfare” may be wrapping up, environment groups say the matter is far from over, and will actually ramp up their efforts in coming months.
More than 4000 people attended #StopAdani roadshow events across Australia., with dozens of new groups forming to stop the mine from going ahead.
Former Greens leader Bob Brown is leading the next stage of the fight against the mine and has described the campaign as this generation’s Franklin River, referring to the decades-long protest movement that eventually stopped the Tasmanian river being dammed in 1983.
“This is the environmental issue of our times and, for one, the Great Barrier Reef is at stake,” Mr Brown recently wrote in an opinion piece.
Alongside millionaire businessman Geoff Cousins, a former Howard government adviser, Mr Brown announced that 13 community groups would form the Stop Adani Alliance to oppose the mine.
If the previous track record of the two leaders is anything to go by, Adani should be very worried.
Mr Cousins was also involved in the successful campaign to stop the Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania and the proposed Woodside gas hub in the Kimberley.
Before he was the Greens leader, Mr Brown led the non-violent campaign against the Franklin Dam.
Now the duo have their sights set on Adani.
They are already being supported by prominent Australians including Australian Test cricket captains Ian and Greg Chappell, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks and rock group Midnight Oil, who signed a letter to Adani chairman Gautam Adani, urging him to abandon the project
Adani however rejected the demand as “a motivated attempt by a very small group of 76 misled people”, the Press Trust of India reported.
While there are a couple of outstanding legal issues, including an appeal in the Federal Court and a bill that needs to be passed in Parliament, the mine looks to be on track.
The last major government approval needed is a water licence and the State Government is expected to announce its decision in the next few days.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland said the mine would be a big win for the state’s central and northern regions, particularly for Townsville where the project’s headquarters is expected to be located.
Charters Towers and Moranbah have also been earmarked as service centres for the mines, while Bowen is expected to be the base for rail construction.
“It’s about supporting our regions and not leaving them behind, creating new jobs and supporting our youth,” CCIQ policy adviser Catherine Pham said.
“Projects such as Adani is definitely a win for our regions, but all Queenslanders should see the positive economic impacts of the project once it kicks off.”
Not everyone agrees. GetUp environmental justice campaign director Miriam Lyons said Adani was a reckless company that threatened people’s lives and livelihoods across Australia.
“Their track record reveals they put profits ahead of people, every time. If Adani wins, the reef, our water and people everywhere will lose,” she said.
“They have avoided paying tax in Australia, preferring to hide their assets in the Cayman Islands. If the Turnbull Government can’t make them pay tax, how can we make sure they don’t ruin the Reef or wreck our water tables?
“It’s time someone actually stood up for farmers and tourism, they are billion-dollar industries that supply people with food, lasting employment, and the opportunity to access the Great Barrier Reef.”
This is what you need to know about this generation-defining project.
WHY ARE PEOPLE SO UPSET?
Once it’s built, the $21.7 billion Carmichael mine near Rockhampton will be one of the biggest in the world. It will include six open-cut pits and five underground mines across an area five times the size of Sydney Harbour.
Once it has been dug up, the coal will need to be transported to India. It will need to travel from the mine in central Queensland via a new 189 kilometre rail link, to a waterfront coal terminal at Abbot Point.
The giant mine will generate so much extra coal, the terminal south of Townsville will need to be expanded to accommodate it.
But there are concerns that the extra coal exports may damage the Great Barrier Reef as the terminal is located on the coastline of the heritage area.
The terminal, which stretches 2km out to the sea, already exports 50 million tonnes of coal per year, but expansion plans approved last year will more than double its capacity, allowing Adani to export an extra 70 million tonnes.
If Adani succeeds in getting a rail link built from its mine to the terminal built, other companies in the Galilee Basin will also be able to use it, and there are plans for another terminal at Abbot Point, which would add another 60 million tonnes of capacity.
There are also concerns that building such a huge mine will also impact the reef because of the emissions produced once the coal is burnt overseas for electricity.
Climate change has been identified as the most serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef, and in an article published in Nature this month, scientists warned that immediate global action to curb future global warming, was essential to securing a future for reefs.
The report came as scientists confirmed a second consecutive year of mass coral bleaching on the reef.
But Adani has rejected suggestions the mine will contribute to climate change.
“This project is a net positive impact on climate change in the world,” Adani Australia chief executive officer Jeyakumar Janakaraj said last year.
During his speech in Brisbane on Friday, Mr Janakaraj said the mine was vital in reducing India’s carbon footprint, with the higher quality Australian coal producing less pollution than that mined in India.
“The 20,000 megawatts of thermal energy (in India) needs a reliable source of good quality coal to keep the net impact to climate change neutral or lower,” Mr Janakaraj said.
“The thing about Carmichael is, it will reduce the carbon footprint of existing plants which are using Indonesian or Indian coal today, by say 30 to 40 per cent.”
But environmentalists are concerned that climate change impacts are not necessarily considered as part of the environmental assessment process for mines.
The Australian Conservation Foundation took Adani to the Federal Court to try and force the federal minister to consider climate change impacts from emissions that would be produced when the coal was burnt overseas for electricity.
But the court accepted the minister’s argument they would be managed through national and international agreements.
The ACF has appealed the decision, with a judgment expected in May or June.
Another thing that is causing concern among environmentalists is Adani’s controversial track record overseas.
The Indian company has been embroiled in illegal dealings, bribery, environmental and social devastation and allegations of corruption, fraud and money laundering, according to a legal research brief released by Environmental Justice Australia in February.
In one concerning incident, a ship carrying Adani coal sank and caused an oil and coal spill along Mumbai’s coast, which damaged tourism and polluted the marine environment. A court fined Adani $975,000 for the accident.
Adani was also ordered to pay $4.8 million after constructing Hajira Port without approval, which destroyed habitat, claimed land and blocked access to fishing communities.