Margaret Gleeson

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told the National Press Club in Canberra on January 30 that he had become increasingly sceptical of Adani”s Carmichael coalmine in recent months: “We’re certainly looking at the Adani matter very closely,” he said. “If it doesn’t stack up commercially or if it doesn’t stack up environmentally it will absolutely not receive our support.”

Last year almost 90% of Queensland was drought declared. For farmers and graziers struggling for survival this meant increasing reliance on groundwater.

Since the 2010 declaration of the Anna Bligh state Labor government that Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine and rail project in Central Queensland was being assessed as a “significant project”, opponents have raised the shady dealings of the company on its home turf, India.

The continued support for the project by Labor and Coalition forces in Queensland and Canberra, in the face of the growing likelihood of the project achieving “stranded asset” status as sources of financing dry up, raises the question: “What is in it for the pollies?”

As 2017 drew to a close the climate movement had much to celebrate. Hard fought campaigns directed at potential financial backers had resulted in Adani’s Carmichael coalmine being a far less certain prospect as one by one financial options dissolved.

With major financial institutions in Australia and overseas ruling out support for the project, Adani had pinned its hopes on China as a possible funding source as well as a market for Galilee Basin coal. In spite of the Australian government oiling the wheels for a deal, all major Chinese banks backed away in the end.

As the decision deadline looms for the $1 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan to Adani for construction of rail infrastructure for the Galilee Basin mega coalmine, a rash of protests erupted in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and at Adani’s work sites near Belyando in Central Queensland.

A sleeper issue in the recent Queensland election was the inaction by mines minister Anthony Lynham on the Land Court’s ruling of May 31 to reject the application by New Hope Coal for the third stage in the expansion of the Acland coalmine, known as Acland Stage 3, in the agriculturally rich Darling Downs.

Renewable energy projects currently under construction in Queensland are set to create a comparable number of jobs to those of the controversial Adani new coal project, if it proceeds. The growth of renewable power generation will create more jobs than have been lost in coalmining.

The future of Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin has become intertwined with the Queensland state elections called for November 25, with the mega coalmine confronting serious problems in obtaining finance for the project.

Over the past year, Adani has been increasingly unable to secure the $5 billion it needs from private sources, as various financial institutions have begun shifting investments away from coal and towards renewables.

Under pressure from grassroots campaigns, Australia’s Big Four banks have ruled out financing the project.

A potential new battlefield has opened up in the fight against Adani’s proposed mega coalmine for the Galilee Basin in Queensland. 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.

From the time of Adani’s initial application for a mining license for the Carmichael Mine project in October 2010, local farmers and graziers have had concerns about the project’s impact on ground water and the Great Artesian Basin.

This was translated into legal challenges to the Carmichael, Kevin’s Corner and Alpha mines in the Galilee Basin. The controversial Adani project, while still financially dubious, has one legal barrier to overcome. The High Court is set to bring down a decision in March on the appeal by the Traditional Owners, the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

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