Mega coalmine along Great Barrier Reef coast 'not a foregone conclusion'

Photo by Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Green groups are reacting angrily to the Queensland Labor government’s approval for one of the world’s biggest hard coal mines along the Great Barrier Reef coast. The Indian Adani company, which has an appalling international ecological record, says it’s sticking to its mega project although investment in it is on hold until the coal price goes up.' Aboriginal traditional owners of the land planned for the mine are fighting it in court, arguing that it would destroy their culture. Adani also faces a federal court challenge from the Australian Conservation Foundation.


Although he’s the one who signed off on the approval, Queensland’s Minister for State Development, Natural Resources and Mines, Anthony Lynham, still argues that the mine is “no foregone conclusion”. This despite the fact that the conservative federal government of Malcolm Turnbull has also greenlighted the project. Six federal backbenchers have called on Queensland to fast track licence approvals.


The South Asia correspondent of the taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, James Bennett, reported that “An analysis of the company's prospects by Indian firm Axis Capital raised the prospect of Adani "considering a write-off of ADE's dormant investment in Australian coal mine".


Adani needs to prove it has the financial capacity to build the AUD16 billion mine, rail and port project before it is granted a final licence. It has not made a final investment decision. It has attracted no financial backers in the six years since it was announced, noted Greenpeace.


Fourteen international banks, including the National Australia Bank, Germany’s Deutsche Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland and United Kingdom’s Barclays have refused to fund it.


The website “Australian Mining” quotes the Queensland treasurer, Curtis Pitt, saying he will help Adani get mining approval but there are still “gates to be gotten through”. "But we will do what we can to facilitate what we see is a terrific investment in this state. Like everyone, I'm hoping to see the potential job creation that the Adani Carmichael mine will bring."


The latest global coal outlook from the world's peak energy agency, the International Energy Agency, say the Adani and other Queensland projects are unlikely to go ahead because of falling world demand for coal.


Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) says its approval comes with about 140 conditions, including nine rules related to the protection of the Black-throated Finch, an endangered bird native to the area. EHP said it’s confident that the strict conditions and environmental requirements will ensure this mine will not pose an unacceptable risk to the environment and any potential impacts will be closely monitored”.


Environmental groups challenge the claim that ecological concerns will be taken seriously. Greenpeace Australia Pacific reef campaigner Shani Tager argues that the mine would not only add to the global warming that is threatening the Great Barrier Reef, it would also involve dredging in the fragile coral ecosystem.


“This environmental authority waves through a project that threatens the health of the Great Barrier Reef, which is already suffering from climate change and pollution,” she said. “It’s a short-sighted and, frankly, absurd decision.”


Kelly O’Shanassy, chief executive officer of the non-profit Australian Conservation Foundation stated:  “I cannot understand why the (Queensland) government would choose to undermine the state’s powerhouse tourism industry and betray the millions of Australians who want the reef to survive and thrive for generations to come”. 

'WGAR News' compilations