MAC: Mines and Communities

The battle continues against Adani's Carmichael mine

Published by MAC on 2015-11-15
Source: Statements, AAP, The Conversation

Indian company's tarnished history dredged up

Despite Australia's federal Environment Minister having approved Adani's Carmichael coal mine, the fight against it continues in various fora.

Late last week it was revealed in the Australian Senate that Adani's CEO was responsible for serious violations when director of operations for Vedanta's Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Zambia.

In fact, Adani's dismal track record - and not just that of his CEO - extends well beyond the Zambian example cited below, especially in India. Indeed, Greenpeace Australia itself published a damning critique of the company in 2014  (see's%20record.pdf).

Further information can also be gleaned from the From Mining to Metal entry at:

Put all these charges together, and they provide a solid case against the Carmichael venture that the Australian federal environment
ministry should certainly have known about before it allowed Adani to even set foot in Australia.

This latest news is followed by some earlier articles reacting to approvals given for the mine to proceed (see also: Adani Carmichael: Australia's largest coal mine free to proceed after Greg Hunt gives approval)

Minister was unaware of Adani CEO’s track record when approving Carmichael coal mine

Larissa Waters

13 November 2015

The federal Environment Department admitted today that when it assessed the Carmichael mine it knew about Adani's Australian CEO's time overseeing a Zambian mine but did not conduct an investigation which would have uncovered a serious river pollution incident.

Under questioning by Senator Larissa Waters in Senate Estimates today, the Department admitted that it was told of the CEO's tenure as head of mining company Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) but that it failed to uncover the river pollution incident, which was revealed by Australian media overnight.

Departmental officials confirmed that they conducted an "assessment" of the information received from Adani before the approval, but did not conduct an "investigation" of KCM or the Zambian mine which might have uncovered the dramatically unfolding pollution scandal.

"The Environment Minister has approved Adani's Carmichael coal mine without being aware of the alleged toxic track record of Adani's Australian CEO," Senator Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said.

"A simple internet search would have turned up reports of toxic pollution in Zambia, but this scandal flew under the radar.

"With this new information, Minister Hunt should immediately revoke his approval of the Southern Hemisphere's largest coal mine for Adani.

"It seems Adani and its CEO have left Zambian and Indian communities to deal with the destructive pollution of their land and water, sacrificing human health and livelihoods.

"I don't think we should trust this environmentally risky company and CEO, who want to suck up Queensland's groundwater and use our Reef as a coal ship super highway.

"Minister Hunt should also consider Adani's Australian CEO's apparent poor environmental history and refuse the Queensland Government's application for the Abbot Point coal port expansion in the Great Barrier Reef, which Adani would use.

"Although Adani told the Department that Jeyakumar Janakaraj was director of operations and CEO of Konkola Copper Mines, the Environment Department did not investigate his time there and was unaware of the disaster he oversaw.

"This incident shows the utter inadequacy of our environment laws to make sure the environmental history of companies is properly considered - if you require companies to dob themselves in, they're probably going to leave things out," Senator Waters said.

Watch the Senate Estimates questioning here:

Qld govt keen to dredge Reef World Heritage Area for a coal mine

27 October 2015

Brisbane - The Queensland government today moved a step closer to putting the Great Barrier Reef at risk by lodging paperwork with the Federal Government to dredge the sea floor in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area for a coal port expansion at Abbot Point.

The environmental impact statement for the Queensland Government’s proposal to dredge 1.1 million cubic metres of sea-floor in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area at Abbot Point and dump the spoil on land next to the Caley Valley Wetlands was forwarded to Canberra today. The final decision on the port’s development is now in the hands of the Commonwealth Government.

The port expansion would be for the ‘unbankable’ Carmichael mega mine, which has failed to attract investors and been rejected by 14 major banks.

“This is not the economic solution and not a jobs solution for Queensland. This is a project that threatens the Reef directly through the removal of important seagrass habitat, home to fish, dugongs and dolphins,” Greenpeace Reef Campaigner Shani Tager said.

“And why? For a coal mine that might not happen, and certainly should never happen. This dredging would risk our fragile Reef for a dying coal industry that will only heighten the risk of climate change.

“The Queensland Government has committed to not proceed with dredging unless Carmichael has its finances arranged. The mine is nowhere near attaining financial closure. So why is Queensland still pushing ahead with the approvals when the company doesn't have the money?,” said Ms Tager.

Carmichael would produce 121 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year at full production, fueling the biggest threat to the Reef - climate change.


Adani Mine: Environment group ramps up pressure on Westpac

By Lydia Feng


22 October 2015

An Indigenous environment organisation has criticised Westpac for not standing up against Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine following re-approval of the controversial project in October by the federal government.

Seed national coordinator Larissa Baldwin told NITV it was "ridiculous" that Westpac, named the world’s most sustainable company in 2014 by research company Corporate Knights, was not willing to rule out funding the $16.5-billion project set for development in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

The land is incredibly important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. But there is a great need to protect it.

"If Westpac was really committed to social and environmental responsibilities, it would not support this," she said.

When NITV asked Westpac to confirm its position on whether it would support Adani, it replied: "While Westpac does not comment on matters relating to specific companies or projects, we assess all transactions through a sustainability risk lens as part of our normal credit risk procedures.

"We apply additional scrutiny to project finance transactions, including applying independent due diligence, as part of our commitment to the equator principles."

The equator principles, which Westpac has signed, are a framework for assessing the environmental and social risk of projects.

Seed has been calling on Australia's big four banks to say "no" to financially supporting the mega mine that is expected to produce 60 million tonnes of coal per annum over 60 years.

While a Commonwealth Bank spokesperson told NITV the bank's "advisory mandate with Adani" had "ended", it did not specify if it would refuse financing the Carmichael project in the future. ANZ also did not confirm its stance.

The National Australia Bank is the country's only financial institution to pledge it will not affiliate with Adani. It told NITV it "is not involved and has no plans to be involved in any financing of the Carmichael coal mine".

A total of 11 European and US banks, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Citibank, have already pulled out of the controversial project, citing ecological impacts.

Adani suffered a blow in August when the Federal Court overturned approval of the mine, but it was given the green light "subject to 36 strict conditions" by Environment Minister Greg Hunt in mid-October.

There's no coal comfort in the approval of the Adani mine

Hepburn & Lucas & Froome

The Conversation

16 October 2015

Adani’s Carmichael coal mine yesterday received the green light from federal environment minister Greg Hunt for the second time.

The mine, originally approved in July 2014, had its approval set aside following a failure to consider two endangered reptiles: the ornamental snake and the yakka skink.

In a media release Hunt said that the approval comes with 36 of the strictest environmental conditions imposed in Australia. Final approval is pending Adani’s submission of a groundwater strategy to the federal environment department.

The approval also includes a rail link from the mine to the Queensland coast as a “precautionary measure to provide investment certainty”.


Below, our experts respond.

Samantha Hepburn, Professor, Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University

Federal Minister Greg Hunt has reapproved the Carmichael Coal Mine in the Galilee Basin, following the decision of the Federal Court in August to set it aside.

The statement of reasons sets out that potential impact such a mine might have on the integrity of the coral reef systems in the Great Barrier Reef cannot be proven given the distance between the mine and the reef. Some heed is given to water impacts and endangered species.

All advice from the independent scientific committee is to be implemented; conservation of threatened species is to be improved through the creation of a $1 million research program and groundwater management and monitoring plans for water within the Doongmabulla Springs area are required.

In the statement the minister accounts for greenhouse gas emissions from building and running the mine, however concludes that accounting for emissions from burning the coal is 'speculative'. It concludes that these emissions will be controlled under international regulations. Greenhouse gases were a significant aspect of the original Federal Court application by the Mackay Conservation Group.

In ignoring the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from burning the coal (presumably on the formalistic basis that consideration is an indirect rather than an explicit requirement under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act), the Federal Minister indicates his preparedness to completely disengage with global climate change imperatives.

If we are to stay under 2℃ of warming, coal is an obsolete resource. The strategic issue for Australia (and the globe) is how to manage the termination of existing coal plants and accelerate the shift to lower carbon intensive energy sources.

Knowing what we do about the imperatives of climate change, approving a vast new coal plant on the eve of the Paris climate change talks, in complete disregard of its significant greenhouse gas implications, is unethical and, at a global level, indefensible.

Katherine Lake, Research Associate, Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, University of Melbourne

Minister Hunt’s reapproval of the Carmichael mine is not surprising, given the government’s record for supporting mining and resources projects in Australia.

While the mine itself is contentious on environmental and economic grounds, the Federal Court’s earlier decision was very narrow and did not consider the climate change consequences of the proposed mine, as requested by the Mackay Conservation Group. The outcome was procedural, in that it required the minister to reconsider the conservation advice for the yakka skink and the ornamental snake, which are both threatened species impacted by the Carmichael project.

This follows other legal precedents in Australia where the courts have overturned major projects based on procedural grounds, but the climate change impacts of major developments are yet to be considered by the Australian courts.

Adam Lucas, Senior Lecturer, Science & Technology Studies Program, University of Wollongong

Adani needs $16 billion to construct a coal-dedicated rail line from the Galilee Basin to its expanded port facility at Abbott Point. Fourteen of the world’s leading financial institutions have so far refused to bankroll the project.

The company revealed its intentions to focus on domestic mining and renewable energy in an August earnings statement to investors, and reportedly has begun discussions with landowners in the Bowen Basin to build a large-scale solar plant there.

Although Adani itself appears to be losing interest in Carmichael, the Federal Minister for the Environment seems determined to see the project go ahead, even though it is both economically unviable and environmentally irresponsible.

Lynette Molyneaux, Researcher, Energy Economics and Management Group, Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland

International coal prices are declining, the Australian dollar is declining and Greg Hunt has given the environmental go-ahead for the Carmichael Mine. Gautam Adani might be smiling, along with his shareholders who must be hoping that the go-ahead for Carmichael might provide a boost to Adani Enterprises and Adani Power stock values, which are well off their highs.

Languishing share prices have never been ideal for companies seeking to raise billions of dollars for risky, international projects with vocal opponents so there may still be a way to go before Adani and his shareholders are able to really smile about their opportunities in Australia.

Coal transported from the Galilee Basin to Abbott Point and then to India is never going to be cheap -- it’s just likely to be cheaper than originally expected. It certainly won’t translate into cheap electricity for India’s poor.

India’s state electricity utilities are already subsidising electricity for the poor by charging rates that are below cost using very cheap Indian coal. Who will subsidise the additional cost required to fuel the power stations with more expensive Galilee Basin coal?

Craig Froome, Clean Energy Program Manager, Global Change Institute, University of Queensland

The Carmichael mine project is again back on the table after receiving government consent, but one must question when or whether it will actually proceed. While Hunt has stated that it has been approved with the most stringent environmental requirements, is the market able to justify another coal mine?

Existing mines are reducing production and there have been announcements of job losses in many of the different mining sectors which would lead to the conclusion that the mine may be immediately mothballed.

We also have to consider that countries such as India, which would be the major destination for the coal, have come out publicly and stated that they intend to stop coal imports within three years. One would think that it would take at least this long for the mine to become operational.

While Australia still has considerable coal reserves and existing coal-fired power generators will not close before they are literally worn out (we only have to look at Hazelwood as an example), most countries that have relied on coal-driven electricity generation are seeking alternatives to meet increased demand, which in many cases is falling as energy efficiency measures kick in.

There is a future for the coal sector, but it is certainly not as rosy as it was, nor will it probably ever be again.

Matthew Currell, Lecturer in Hydrogeology, School of Environmental Engineering, RMIT University

The Carmichael mine, if constructed, is estimated to involve the extraction of approximately 12 gigalitres (billion litres) of groundwater. This is a very large amount of water, equivalent to about half of the yearly water extracted by two and a half thousand active coal seam gas wells in Queensland’s Surat and Bowen basins.

The mine does not have the consent of the traditional owners of the region, who have expressed deep concerns over the impact the mine would have on the landscape in the Wangan and Jagalingou country. In particular, the springs and streams that are fed by groundwater and support the ecological environments of the area are likely to be significantly affected.

The mine would cause large groundwater drawdowns, which would impact flows in the Carmichael river and in the Mellaluka Springs complex. The Doongmabulla Springs complex may also be affected; while the minister has imposed conditions of maximum allowable drawdown at these springs, the impacts are still uncertain and may not immediately manifest.

Land subsidence is also expected to be significant: up to 5.5m over an area of nearly 8000 hectares.

Many of the groundwater modelling predictions about connections between shallow and deep aquifers, surface water features and the adjoining Great Artesian Basin are still uncertain. The minister’s approach of commissioning research to understand these issues would be a welcome step if it were to be conducted prior to the mine being given approval. However as in many recent cases, this sequence appears to be in the wrong order.

Samantha Hepburn, Professor, Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University; Adam Lucas, Senior Lecturer, Science & Technology Studies Program, University of Wollongong, University of Wollongong; Craig Froome, Global Change Institute – Clean Energy Program Manager , The University of Queensland; Katherine Lake, Research Associate at the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, University of Melbourne; Lynette Molyneaux, Researcher, Energy Economics and Management Group, Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland, and Matthew Currell, Lecturer in Hydrogeology, School of Environmental Engineering, RMIT University



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