Aurizon’s change of heart adds to the pressure to stop Adani

Protest at the Abbot Point coal terminal last September. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

The announcement on February 9 that Aurizon will withdraw its application to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to construct a rail link between the Abbot Point coal terminal and the Galilee Basin was welcomed by opponents of the Adani Carmichael coal project.

Coordinator of Farmers for Climate Action Queensland Michael Kane was heartened by the setback to the rail line. He said graziers across central Queensland had been put through the wringer over this mega coal mine project.

"They've had their groundwater, the lifeblood of central Queensland threatened and they've had their properties cut in half with the compulsory acquisition of the rail corridor,” he said.

"Enough is enough. This mine doesn't stack up environmentally, economically or socially and it's clear that there's no public or private investor appetite for funding the project.

"This is another nail in the coffin for the Carmichael project.”

Central Queensland grazier William Graham launched a petition in October last year to stop the compulsory acquisition of grazing land for Adani's rail line. He said: "As a grazier I care deeply about our land, water and our rural communities. The Adani mine and further expansion of coal mining in the Galilee Basin threatens all of this.

"We know that agriculture is the backbone of rural Australia and we know that NAIF funds would be better spent on the development of critical infrastructure for agriculture across the north.”

Adani also faces other potential setbacks. Director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia at Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis Tim Buckley reported that Adani has a massive debt liability for the Carmichael mine project and the Abbot Point terminal and Standard & Poor’s has warned of a potential rating cut if it does not lock in financing soon.

“Adani Enterprises has sunk $1.5 billion in Carmichael and a write-off of the entire amount would equate to 50% of the company’s US$2.3 billion net shareholder equity. It seems unlikely there would be any buyers for the project should Adani try to dump it, so a 90–100% write-off would be required if it walks away.”

“Given that the company has so much invested — financially, ego-wise and perhaps emotionally — in Carmichael, it’s easy to see why it may well be angling for one last chance to slake its ill-advised thirst to push forward.”

Aurizon managing director Andrew Harding said it continued to support the development of the Galilee Basin. “If market circumstances change and our discussions with potential customers progress to commercial arrangements we will look at all possible financing arrangements to develop the rail solution.”

While all mining approvals for Adani and the other Galilee mining projects remain in place, Aurizon’s backdown on the rail link must be welcomed as the latest major setback for Adani and other mining companies’ plans for new coal exploitation: not the last nail in the coffin.

The Stop Adani movement is continuing to apply pressure to Labor in the lead up to the March 17 Batman byelection to make a specific statement that if elected it will overturn existing approvals for new coalmines in the Galilee basin.

On February 7 Environmental Justice Australia blogged: “In the case of the Adani mine, suspending or cancelling approvals already granted under legislation is not straightforward, but pathways do exist.”

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