Campaign against Galilee Basin coalmine turns up the heat

Issue 
W&J elder Adrian Burragubba speaks at an action in Brisbane March 26 against a new coalmine in the Gallilee Basin.

As the Galilee Basin project faces legal challenges by Aboriginal and other community groups and international banks refuse to finance it, the environment movement is focusing its campaign on ensuring that the Australian Big 4 banks also withhold finance.

Indian mining company Adani plans to build Australia’s largest thermal coalmine in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland. The project, estimated to cost $16 billion, will also involve building a 388 km railway line and port facilities and a new coal terminal at Abbot Point next to the Great Barrier Reef near Bowen. Over its estimated life of 60 to 90 years the mine will export 60 million tonnes of coal to India each year.

In October, a month after the Queensland Co-ordinator General had recommended approval of the mine, representatives from the Wangan and Jagalingou people formally rejected an Indigenous land use agreement for the mine.

Adani immediately appealed to the National Native Title Tribunal to override this objection, and allow the mine to go ahead.

Wangan and Jagalingou elder Adrian Burragubba wrote to Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, asking her to reject the proposed mine and uphold his people’s native title rights. He warned that the mine would “tear the heart out of our country”.

Burragubba told Guardian Australia: “We don’t consent to this large coalmine on our homelands, we have made it very clear to Adani that no means no. The mine will destroy the natural environment, it will damage our laws and customs beyond repair and further dispossess our people.

“If the Queensland government succumbs to pressure from companies like Adani, there’s no hope for Aboriginal people. All our rights will be overridden.”

An online petition has been launched to support Wangan and Jagalingou actions.

Hearings on the mining lease applications and objections began on March 31 in the Queensland Land and Environment Court and are expected to last five weeks. The Environmental Defenders Office (Qld) has taken on the case and will argue that the mine should not go ahead because of its effects on climate change, its impact on local groundwater and because it threatens the vulnerable black-throated finch. Daily updates are available here.

Janelle Rees, Galilee Basin Campaigner for 350 Australia told Green Left Weekly: "If this mine goes ahead it will be the biggest coal mine in Australia, the third biggest in the world. The impacts of this mine will be felt everywhere, as the emissions push us over the 2 degree tipping point.

“This court case is critical to getting these impacts heard and on the day that the climate change evidence is being heard in court, we will be out the front of the court to show solidarity and support for the legal team and those who are involved in trying to stop this coal mine"

However it is not just the legal challenges that are delaying the commencement of the Galilee Project. Adani has also come up against difficulties in financing what is being viewed as a less attractive economic proposition for potential investors. Three major French investment banks — BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and Societe General — have sent letters to a French environment group ruling out funding the development.

Julien Vincent from the environmental group Market Forces told the ABC: "These three banks play a very significant role in financing the fossil fuel industry in Australia, particularly coal mining.

The State Bank of India is reportedly considering rejecting Adani’s application for a billion dollar loan to finance the project. Eleven other international banks have ruled out funding the coalmine or associated infrastructure, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citi.

Greens Senator, Christine Milne said in a statement released on April 9: "These French banks are some of the world's biggest coal industry lenders and even they can see that investing in the Galilee Basin coal mines is environmentally and financially reckless.

"It's time that Australian banks woke up and realised the environmental, climate, economic and reputational risks of investing in the Galilee Basin coal mines are dire.

Beyond Green has launched a campaign against the ANZ Bank, including a “March of Zombie Koalas”. To see how you can get active in this campaign click here.

Environmental campaigning group 350.org launched “Raise the Heat” in Brisbane on April 9. Janelle Rees, Galilee Basin Campaigner for 350 Australia told Green Left Weekly: "From May19 to 23, 350.org Australia will be Raising the Heat on the Commonwealth Bank and asking for a public commitment ruling out funding for the Abbot Point expansion and the Galilee Coal Projects.

"We will be showing CommBank that there is significant support all around Australia to withdraw any support for Adani's plans. In what will be a week of rolling actions, Australians from all walks of life will come out to their local branches to show CommBank that enough is enough and we do not want our money funding these projects.

"Individuals can elect to adopt their local branch and get a team of people together to undertake activities in the lead up too, and during the week of action. Or, they can sign up to branches that have been registered and join existing teams as they head out to tell CommBank that they want a public commitment from them, ruling out funding of Abbot Point and the Galilee Basin"

To sign up for “Raise the Heat” click here.

[Margaret Gleeson is a member of Socialist Alliance.]

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