Adani’s sinister accomplice

A protest against GDH in Brisbane on August 1
A protest against GDH in Brisbane on August 1. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Stop Adani activists held a week of protests at the end of July targeting multinational engineering design and construction consultant GHD.

The aim was to raise awareness about GHD’s silent role in the construction of Adani’s coal mine in the Galilee Basin, in Central Queensland.

The Australia-based multinational — which generates a global revenue of $1.7 billion — was recently awarded a contract by Adani to work on the engineering design of its proposed Carmichael coal mine.

GHD has built up a reputation in Australia through its involvement in public civil works, winning contracts from state and federal governments totalling in the tens of millions.

The Australian Financial Review reported on July 14 that, “GHD is involved in a large number of engineering projects in Australia, including water, transportation, property, renewable energy and waste management.

Among the projects GHD has been involved in are:

  • Newcastle’s light rail system, which was built to replace the city’s ripped up rail line against community opposition;

  • Melbourne’s East-West Road Link, later abandoned after large protests;

  • Victoria’s Port of Hastings development, which was opposed by environmentalists due to its harm to coastal wetlands;

  • Victoria’s desalination plant, which faced protests over non-disclosure of financial information and lack of environmental studies and reports; and

  • Millions of dollars in AusAID and defence contracts for building construction and support, and maintenance and repair services. 

AFR also noted: “[GHD] has been involved in a number coal-related projects, including the Dalrymple Bay and Gladstone coal terminals, and the Loy Yang, Crinum East and Grosvenor coal mines.”

While working as a consultant for BHP on its Dendrobium coal mine, south of Sydney, GHD was awarded a 2013 state government contract to audit the health of Sydney's drinking water catchment.

In a letter to the state government at the time, Nature Conservation Council chief executive Pepe Clarke and Save Our Water Catchment Areas's Peter Turner pointed out the clear conflict of interest involved as the “mine project has had a direct impact on the volume and quality of water flowing into Sydney's drinking water reservoirs.''

GHD has continued to win government contracts despite receiving a ban from the World Bank for defrauding a fund to rebuild Indonesia after the 2004 earthquake and tsunami.

It was also later revealed that GHD had used asbestos in dozens of buildings — including schools and local government offices — constructed after the tsunami with money from AusAID contracts.

The Stop Adani movement has been successful to date in blocking financial backing for the mine and looks like achieving the same in terms of insurance underwriting for the project. Major insurance companies such as Suncorp and QBE have stated they will not support fossil fuel initiatives.

However the links between GHD and Adani are not tenuous and may be more difficult to sever.

GHD was the consulting firm that prepared the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on behalf of Adani for its Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project in November 2013.

Market Forces notes that this report carried inflated potential jobs figures that were used as part of the campaign to justify the construction of the mine, but which were later discredited by Adani’s own economic expert under oath in court.

GHD also undertook the consultation phase of the EIS and prepared the Project Commitments Report submitted to the Commonwealth Minister on behalf of and for Adani.

GHD has also been contracted by Powerlink to extend the existing high-voltage electricity transmission network into the Galilee Basin region.

According to ACF campaigner Christian Slattery: “If Adani’s Carmichael mine goes ahead it will lock in decades of coal burning and accelerate climate change at a time when the world needs to rapidly get out of coal.

“If GHD chooses to work with Adani on a new thermal coal mine, it will have actively chosen to be part of the climate change problem, rather than part of the solution.”

Market Forces campaigner Pablo Brait said: "Our view is that no company that considers itself ethical or committed to sustainable development can work on this project.

"With the increasing awareness in the community about how serious the climate crisis is, companies that are helping expand fossil fuel projects face a reputational risk as well as all the others.”

 

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