On April 3, the Queensland mines minister Anthony Lynham and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk approved the three mining leases of Indian multinational Adani for the Carmichael coalmine and rail project in the Galilee Basin.
Federal approval was granted by federal environment minister Greg Hunt in October.
If the as-yet unfunded project proceeds, it will be the largest open cut coalmine in the southern hemisphere, with the three mining leases estimated to contain 11 billion tonnes of thermal coal, and a mine production capacity of 60 million tonnes of coal a year. The approval is for a 30-year lease; Adani has indicated it will apply for a second 30-year lease to cover the expected life of the mine.
Adani's Carmichael project is the largest of a number of proposed mines in the Galilee Basin. The project includes the development of a port at Abbot Point and a rail link from the mine to the port. The completion of the infrastructure will enable the opening up of the entire Galilee Basin to coal exploitation at the expense of food production.
The Adani project has been touted for six years and has been the subject of a massive movement to prevent its progress. The broad campaign has involved local farmers and residents, conservation groups and traditional owners. A number of legal challenges have been mounted: two are outstanding in the federal court and which, if successful, could overturn the decision.
The approval was widely condemned by environment, climate and indigenous organisations.
Wangan and Jagalingou spokesperson and traditional owner Adrian Burragubba said: “This is a disgraceful new low in the exercise of government power at the expense of traditional owners' rights…
"In October, minister Lynham confirmed in a letter to our legal counsel that he would await the outcome of our Federal Court action against the mine before considering issuing the leases. Late last year and again this year he said he would wait for the matters before the courts to be resolved so as not to run the risk of having his decision invalidated.”
Burragubba's legal representative, human rights lawyer Benedict Coyne said: “The granting of these leases by the minister is a concern given that there is a judicial review proceeding for a related matter pending before the Federal Court. It is curious as to why the minister was unable to wait for the proper legal processes to be concluded. We will be seeking a statement of reasons for the decision from the minister and from there we will consider our client's legal options.”
350.org Australia was quick to respond with a 9am protest the next day at Parliament House. “As global temperatures hit terrifying levels and the reef turns a deathly white, the absurdity of Anastacia Paluszczuk's government approving this monstrous coal project cannot be understated,” said Moira Williams, a campaigner with 350.org Australia.
She continued: “Queenslanders are sick and tired of their government putting the reef and our future second to the mining industry. The Paluszczuk government was elected on a mandate to protect the reef. Instead, they are giving the coal industry a leg-up to trash it. This has got to stop.”
Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy said: "It's an extraordinary decision, especially coming at a time when the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its worst ever coral bleaching event. We know the bleaching is because of global warming and Carmichael will only make that worse.
"The pollution from this mine is so big that it cancels the pollution cuts the Turnbull government committed to at the Paris Climate Summit."
By Adani's own figures, the mine and its coal will emit more than 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.
Palaszczuk promoted the decision on the basis of job creation and economic gains for the Queensland community. Her announcement is just so much twaddle. Her claims perpetrate (and exceed) the lies being peddled by Adani.
The government says the project is worth $21.7 billion, although Adani's own estimate is $16.5 billion. The government claims it will create 10,000 jobs in the construction and production stages. This is the number cited by Adani in its original application. However under cross examination in the Land Court the Adani spokesperson revised this figure to 1206 jobs in Queensland and 1464 Australia-wide. This represents 0.06% of the state's work force.
In the past 12 months mining employment in Queensland has declined by more than 10,000 jobs but overall employment is up by 15,000. Mining doesn't drive jobs growth: service industries, such as like tourism, do.
Adani has also consistently overestimated the potential royalties and tax payments it will make to the Queensland government. On April 3, Adani said: “The sale price of Carmichael coal is not an issue … as the product is destined for power generation by Adani's parent company in India. Low cost coal will increase profits earned in India minimising any royalties or tax payments to the Queensland government.”
Adani has certainly got value for money for the campaign donations it has made to both Labor and the Liberal-Nationals. However it is unlikely that either party sees the need to amend the Electoral Act to ban such contributions.
The nationalisation of our natural resources is the only way to ensure sustainable and ecologically sound development and to protect what should not be touched.