A potential new battlefield has opened up in the fight against Adani’s proposed mega coalmine for the Galilee Basin in Queensland. If built, the Carmichael coalmine would be the country’s largest, exporting up to 60 million tonnes of coal from the Great Barrier Reef coast every year.
To date, the campaign against the coalmine has successfully pressured several companies – including Australia’s Big Four banks – to rule out financing the project.
However, as the board of directors of procurement contractor Downer EDI Mining – which is in the box seat to construct the Adani mine infrastructure – prepared to face shareholders at its November 2 Annual General Meeting, news broke that the company and Adani were in negotiations with Chinese state-owned enterprise China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) over its possible involvement in financing the project.
This followed revelations at an October 23 Senate committee hearing, where officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed that government ministers had written to the Chinese government in support of the Adani mine.
The ABC’s Stephen Long reported on November 2 that senior Adani executive Praveen Khandelwal and Downer chief executive David Overall had visited China as guests of CMEC earlier this year.
After the visit, CMEC president Zhang Chun announced that his company "hoped to cooperate with Adani and Downer to take part in financing, construction and operation of relevant coalmines and railway projects" in Australia.
According to CMEC, Adani and Downer executives expressed their desire that the three parties "jointly complete the coal and railway projects under Adani and achieved all-win results”, with sources indicating that negotiations are still ongoing.
Long wrote: “According to a source close to the negotiators, the deal with CMEC would involve it being given a contract to manufacture the mine's coal handling and processing plant in China, along with other incentives, in return for procuring finance for Adani's mine.
“The financial support could include CMEC taking a direct equity stake in the Adani Carmichael project, procuring financing from Chinese banks or export credit agencies, or both.”
According to Tim Buckley, an energy analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, who has long argued that Adani's project was not viable, “the risk is that the combination of a billion-dollar subsidised loan from the federal government from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, a $600 million royalty holiday from the Queensland government and support from Chinese state-owned enterprises could mean that this project is able to achieve financial close."
When questioned by activist shareholders at the Downer AGM, both the company chairperson and CEO stated that they had not heard that morning’s ABC report and denied having made a trip to China.
While the suitors – Adani and Downer – are uncommitted at this stage, the prospect of a marriage of convenience between Adani, Downer and CMEC raises the stakes for the Stop Adani movement.
In recent weeks, community opposition in regional Queensland has grown in response to Townsville and Rockhampton councils using $30 million of ratepayer’s money for an airstrip near the site of the proposed coalmine — more than 600 kilometres away — for fly-in fly-out workers.
While hailing the proposed mine as a jobs bonanza, Townsville council has just made more than 140 people redundant, with the $18.5 million in savings going towards an airstrip for the coalmine.
Stop Adani plans to ramp up the pressure on key decision-makers in the next six weeks, including with a #StopAdani Shake Up Week on November 20-24. Between now and the end of the year it is anticipated that activists from around the country will travel to the region for a series of actions.
Meanwhile, more than 50 activists, mostly grandparents, occupied the office of inner west Sydney Labour MP Anthony Albanese on November 2.
The occupation comes after recent nationwide polling revealed 77% opposition to the Adani mine, including 89% opposition among Labor supporters.
Galilee Blockade spokesperson Gillian Reffell said: “Albo has sold us out, listening to lobbyists and party donors rather than Labor supporters.”
“We’re camping out in Albanese’s office until he listens to his constituents and the 89% of Labor Party supporters who don’t want this catastrophic mine. We want Albo to help us stop Adani.”
“Extreme weather has become normal and will get worse. Climate change threatens the lives and livelihoods of our kids and grandkids. We’re here to fight for their future.”
“We remember when Australians stood up to save the Franklin, to save the Daintree and Fraser Island, including getting arrested. What makes Albanese think we won’t stand strong to save the Reef?”
Miree Le Roy, the Greens candidate for the northern Brisbane seat of Sandgate in the upcoming Queensland elections, attended the Downer AGM and joined the occupation of Albanese’s office.
She told Green Left Weekly: “The insanity of the Australian taxpayer funding the railway line for a Chinese government-funded entity for an Indian billionaire’s coalmine is just absurd.
“It ultimately makes no sense for Australian taxpayers to be footing the infrastructure bill for private profiteers.”
Kamala Emanuel, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the inner Brisbane seat of McConnel also spoke to GLW, saying: “The Queensland and federal governments have fallen over each other to underwrite this Adani project which is toxic to the environment, will massively contribute to climate change, destroy the Great Barrier Reef, drain the Great Artesian Basin, threaten food security and further degrade land and waterways.
“It has done this in the face of consistent opposition over a number of years from local farmers, traditional owners, marine scientists and environmental groups.
“Acting as an enabler for Adani in search of financing from China is yet another example of ruling for the 1% while ignoring the 99%.”
[For more information on the #StopAdani Shake Up Week or the campaign visit stopadani.com.]