After an uphill battle and long delays, the Adani coal mine project in Australia has finally got the government’s green light.
In what became a huge election issue for Australia this year, the Adani coal mine, or Carmichael coal mine, has created a divide between climate change activists and people seeking employment. With the conservative coalition re-elected in 2019, Australia will now see the Adani coal mine become a reality.
In a statement, CEO of Adani Mining Lucas Dow said he has received a confirmation from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science that the company’s Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Management Plan and Black-throated Finch Management Plan have been approved.
“This is confirmation the plan complies with all regulatory conditions set by the Australian and State Governments, bringing to a close a two-year process of rigorous scientific inquiry, review, and approvals,” said Dow.
Before the Adani coal mine can begin construction, Dow said the company needs to finalise contracts and recruits, and gather equipment.
“These preparatory actions will enable us to then start construction activities, including fencing, bridge and road upgrades, water management, and civil earthworks on the mine site,” said Dow.
He added that the level of construction activity will “steadily increase” over the next few weeks.
Why is the Adani coal mine controversial?
Queensland became a battleground for the 2019 Australian election because of the debate between jobs and climate change. The Adani coal mine project, also known as the Carmichael coal mine, wants to mine in the Galilee Basin, one of the planet’s largest untapped coal reserves.
Those protesting the Adani coal mine said it greatly endangers Australia’s ecosystems by contributing to global warming.
“The Adani mine—planned to be built inland of the Great Barrier Reef—would be one of the biggest coal mines in the world,” said Stop Adani, one of the main groups protesting the coal mine.
The group said if the Adani coal mine was approved, the project would “destroy ancestral lands, waters, and cultures of indigenous people without their consent”, “allow 500 more coal ships to travel through the Great Barrier Reef World” zone for the next 60 years, and “damage aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin”.
Stop Adani also said the company would have unrestricted and free access to 270 billion litres of groundwater for 60 years and add 4.6 billion tons of carbon pollution to the atmosphere.
However, supporters of the project say the coal mine will infuse the country with much-needed employment.
Adani said the coal mine will add 1,500 direct mine and rail jobs, and 6,750 indirect construction, food and beverage, and transport jobs in and around Rockhampton and Townsville.
Whitsunday, Isaac, Central Highlands, Mackay, Charters Towers, and Gladstone areas will also see the benefits of the coal mine, says Adani.
After the Australian election was called, Dow said, “It’s now time for Queensland government to start acting in the best interest of Queenslanders… We’re not embarrassed about what we do. We’re proud of being coal miners, we’re proud of the contribution we make.”
Impact of the issue on the Australian election
The incumbent conservative government emphasised that the Adani coal mine would bring employment and raise the standard of living in Australia’s suburbs. In contrast, the liberal Opposition, Australian Labour Party (ALP), focused on the need for conservation efforts and proposed plans for renewable energy and emissions cuts.
Then ALP leader Bill Shorten said his party’s 45% emission reduction target would result in a $10 billion loss of tax revenue. However, he maintained that the conservatives’ plan was even more expensive in the long run.
Climate change advocates supported ALP’s policies, saying Shorten’s was akin to a fire truck, while incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s was like a watering can. Still, people were concerned about how viable Shorten’s policies were because they required swift action on a large scale.
Many election pandits in Australia pegged climate change as a big-ticket election issue and assumed that the result would favour the ALP.
However, in a shocking victory, incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the conservative coalition was re-elected in 2019. The coalition comprised of the Liberal Party and National Party that collectively won 76 seats, just over the halfway mark of the 151 total.
The liberal ALP bagged only 65 seats. The conservatives also won most of the seats from Queensland, home to the Adani coal mine.
Why Adani is investing in the mine when it’ll lose money
ABC reports that one of the major outcomes of the Adani coal mine is that it sets a precedent for more companies to come into the Galilee Basin, especially because Adani will have already created the necessary infrastructure.
Environmentalists like Dr Bob Brown say the scale of the mines would be huge, not only by Australian standards but international ones.
“The cumulative impact here on extracting water from a very limited resource is not being taken into account as it should have been… If you’re going to develop a basin of this size… then the impact on water and on the natural environment should have been done as a whole—it’s done piecemeal,” said Dr. Brown.
Adani’s coal mine will attempt to meet India’s coal needs after it is fully constructed. However, new research suggests that this plan is not viable.
“We question how building the two biggest Australian thermal coal mine projects in Australian history will actually help solve India’s electricity sector quagmire,” says Director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis Tim Buckley.
Buckley explains that market conditions combined with the operational costs of the coal mine make the Adani project “un-commercial”. Moreover, the quality of coal that will be mined falls short of Australian standards.
Quartz reports that the project looked so unattractive to banks that none were willing to provide insurance. Hence, Adani Chairman Gautam Adani has self-funded this entire project.
While India has enough coal mines to power itself, the government has said that its mining infrastructure is designed to work on foreign coal. That India has reduced its coal imports but cannot eliminate them completely is a lifeline for Adani’s business.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.