The Queensland government once again demonstrated its commitment to progressing Adani’s mega coal mine project in the Galilee basin on October 9.
State development minister Anthony Lynham announced that the government had invoked special powers to ensure the controversial Carmichael coal and rail project starts next year.
The combined mine, rail and associated water infrastructure have all been declared critical infrastructure. Lynham says the decision will mean less red tape for the proposed $21.7 billion Adani venture.
Designation of the project as critical infrastructure may open the door to federal funding for the rail link or water infrastructure. However, in spite of the recent increase in coal prices, Adani is still without major financing for the project, and it could still be doomed as a stranded asset.
Tim Buckley, director of energy finance studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), in an October 11 article in response to the decision, wrote: “The strategic merit remains questionable, the quality of the coal the project would produce is inferior and the location is remote. It remains an unbankable proposal.
“However, Adani is a gigantic company that is used to getting its way. It has already invested $1.4 billion in the project and is reluctant to just walk away and write off that amount of money. Coal prices have rallied dramatically this year, and Adani wields political clout in both India, its home country, and in Australia. It can move governments. That means a downsized version of the project remains a possibility.
“However, legal challenges would need to be resolved, and Adani Mining would need to update its project planning and pull together a new group of international partners to demonstrate exactly how the project would be financed.
“But the structural decline of global seaborne thermal coal markets, in IEEFA’s view, continues.
“Still, so long as global ECA’s from China, Korea, the US, Japan and Australia continue to subsidise financing for new coal projects, Carmichael’s reappearance in headlines cannot be ignored.”
Community opposition to the mine going ahead remains and there are still outstanding legal challenges.
Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping said the dredging required for Adani's expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal, north of Bowen, could do untold environmental harm and the mine itself will fuel global warming and endanger the reef.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) condemned Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her government’s decision in a statement issued on October 10.
AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaigner Imogen Zethoven said: “The burning of coal due to be produced from Adani’s Carmichael mine will result in 60 million tonnes of CO2 a year for up to 60 years, which will accelerate global warming and increase the temperature and acidification of the Reef’s waters.
“The special treatment for Australia’s largest coalmine project risks irreversibly damaging the Great Barrier Reef.
“The Reef experienced the worst ever coral bleaching event earlier this year when nearly a quarter of the corals died from heat stress due to a huge pool of hot water in the northern third.
“How can the Palaszczuk government claim to be protecting the Reef and at the same time fast-tracking the massive Carmichael mine when it will lead to increased damage to the Great Barrier Reef?
“The Great Barrier Reef is already under pressure from coastal industrialisation, chemical farm runoff and the recent massive coral bleaching crisis. The last thing it needs is the green light to mine and burn all this coal.
“The natural wonder will also face greater risk as pressure mounts for the expansion of Abbot Point coal port and hundreds more coal ships every year ploughing through the Reef’s waters.
“The Queensland government must remember that there are 69,000 reef tourism-related jobs that rely on a healthy Reef. These will be put at risk from the impacts of mega ports and massive coal mines that accelerate global warming.
“There is no doubt that Adani’s Carmichael mine will push the Reef and all those regional jobs to the brink.”
The Greens said the Queensland government’s decision to designate the Adani coal mine, railway and water infrastructure as “critical infrastructure” is reckless and shows just how short-sighted the state government is.
Greens Deputy Leader and environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters said: “Adani’s mega-mine and the dredging at Abbot Point coal port will be a climate disaster and Reef destroyer if they go ahead.
“Queenslanders will be outraged that a Labor government elected to ‘Save the Reef’ is signing its death warrant.
“We know that Adani will likely pay no tax in Australia and will only generate a fraction of the jobs originally promised.
“If the Palaszczuk government is seeking a jobs-rich industry to fast track as ‘critical infrastructure’ it should look to clean energy. Clean energy is jobs rich, doesn’t drive dangerous global warming and won’t place our Reef in further strife.
World Wildlife Fund Australia has also condemned the Queensland Government’s decision. Its CEO Dermot O’Gorman said: “For more than three years, Australians have fought to stop ‘fast tracking of approvals’ for industrialisation along the Reef’s coast.
“At the World Heritage meeting last year, the Queensland government promised Australians and UNESCO that it would take urgent action to protect our Reef.
“Fast-tracking Adani’s new coal mine is out of step with that promise. The Queensland Government is ignoring the fact that mining and burning coal drives up ocean temperatures and acidification of the Reef’s waters.”
“This summer the Reef experienced the worst coral bleaching in its history. Now is the time for the Government to support renewable energy — not new mega coal mines.”
The fast tracking of the Adani project one of a series of coal mining projects the government has given the go-ahead in recent weeks. These include stage 3 of Acland mine operated by New Hope Coal in the Darling Downs, the Alpha mine proposal for the Galilee Basin by Hancock GVK, and the reopening of the Glencore mine at Collinsville.
How this addiction to fossil fuels can co-exist with the state government’s target of 50% renewable energy by 2030 is hard to see.