2019-10-22 09:47:471970-01-01 00:00:00

An End to the Charade

Adani had finally received the green light from the Queensland Labor government to begin the construction of its thermal coal mine. After the shockingly poor performance during the recent Federal Election, Labor had done a 180 degree turn on its stance in the hopes of clawing back support from regional blue-collar workers.

Adani Coal Mine

Coal is an important source of energy within Australia, providing more than 60% of the electricity production within Australia. Up to 75% of extraction, however, is exported overseas to East Asia. Most coal mining occurs in mining sites located in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Adani Australia is an energy and infrastructure subsidiary of Adani Group based in India and founded by Indian billionaire Gautam Adani. It has already invested $3.3 billion in Australia through its renewables energy project involving solar farms in Queensland and South Australia. The Adani Mine, which has appeared in the media for all the wrong reasons, refers to the coal mine project located within the north of the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland, intended to supply coal to power plants in India. If approved, Adani would join the existing network of 125 coal mines in Australia to produce over 10 million tonnes of coal each year.

It lodged its initial application on the 22nd October 2010 with the local government, with a much more ambitious plan to build a $16.5 billion mine, producing 60 million tonnes of thermal coal each year, along with a rail line measuring 388 kilometres. However, a lack of funding from domestic and Chinese banks has led to its downsizing to make it more economic.

Legal Challenges abound

Legal and political roadblocks have dragged Adani Group through an incredible 3,156 days of bureaucracy without results, before finally gaining approval to start construction of the mines in June this month. The initial proposal back in 2010 alarmed environmentalists due to the sheer scale of the project.

The first challenge came from native land title claims from Indigenous landowners of the Wangan and Jagalingou People, who were concerned with the impact on ancestral lands, waters and cultural heritage. Most critics however, belong to the group of environmentalists who have been very vocal in making their stance known. Opponents of Adani include the Mackay Conservation Group, Land Services of Coast and Country Inc, and the Australian Conservation Foundation. Common points of contention include the poor track record of Adani in India, endangerment to local wildlife, greenhouse gas emissions, overstating the number of jobs created and the financial viability of such a large scale project. While some of these issues had been resolved, public outcry has prevented the local Labor government from giving Adani their full support.

Loyal Voter Base turns against Labor

Queensland voters in favour of the mine turned their backs on Labor for failing to listen to their concerns. Voters uniformly swung from Labor to right-wing parties in the 2019 Federal Elections. On a two party preferred basis, five of six federal elections in Queensland’s regional areas swung to the Coalition, with votes going to the United Australian and One Nation Party. The Coalition decisively won, leading with 77 seats in the parliament. Labor’s wipeout in Queensland, traditionally a very strong and loyal voter base, forced Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to pave the way in setting a definitive date to resolve the Adani issue. “We need some certainty and we need some time frames. Enough is enough”, Ms Palaszczuk said on the issue. With the State Elections one year away, the local Labor government must do more to hold on to its position.

Future for Adani

After almost 9 years in limbo, the Department of Environment finally relented and approved the current groundwater management plans (GDEMP). Labor’s poor showing during the Federal Elections had certainly sped up the approval process, but the looming threat of a recession has also contributed to Adani’s win. Lucas Dow, CEO of Adani Mining, has said that “the finalisation of the GDEMP and Black-throated Finch Management Plan paves the way for construction to commence on the Carmichael Project and the delivery of much needed jobs for regional Queenslanders”.

Dow estimated that the project will create 1500 direct and 6750 indirect jobs during its initial construction phase, with Townsville and Rockhampton being primary employment hotspots. Adani will now begin work on finalising contracts, mobilising equipment, recruitment and inductions. This will soon be followed by construction of fencing, bridges, road upgrades, water management and the important Carmichael Rail to transport the coal to Abbot Point Port. The project is of great importance in revitalising Australia’s economy, since it’s been over 50 years since a new coal mine has been opened. Adani will still need to negotiate a royalties agreement plan with the Palaszczuk government, and resolve the legal challenges in its way before work can be officially commenced.

By Oliver Ju

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