MAC: Mines and Communities

Aussie court clears way for $12bn Carmichael coal mine

Published by MAC on 2015-12-17
Source:, End Coal, The Age

Aussie court clears way for $12bn Carmichael coal mine

Cecilia Jamasmie

16 December 2015

An Australian court has rejected the latest bid by environmentalists to stop Adani's Carmichael coal venture from going ahead, paving the way for the Indian conglomerate’s $12bn (A$16.5bn) mine and rail project.

While the Land Court of Queensland’s ruling clears the way for the giant coal project, it is not binding on the state’s mining minister to issue any licences to Adani. It also comes with a long list of tighter conditions to protect the environment from the possible hazards that might arise from it, particularly around the nearby Great Barrier Reef.

Queensland's legal nod comes only days after a special meeting between Adani’s chairman Gautam Adani and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in which the Indian mining magnate requested the PM to introduce a special law banning activists from seeking judicial review of environmental approvals.

The Carmichael mine has faced relentless opposition from organizations ranging from the United Nations to green groups fighting new coal projects, which has scared banks from lending to the project. In October, the company got a big relief when the Australian government re-issued the environment approval for the project under what environment minister Greg Hunt called “the strictest conditions in Australian history."

First proposed in 2010, the massive coal project —set to produce about 60 million tonnes of coal a year mainly for export— has been reviewed several times in response to concerns highlighted by authorities and stakeholders.

An earlier plan to dump 3 million cubic metres of soil dredged at Abbot Point into the sea about 25 km (15 miles) from the Great Barrier Reef was rejected. Since then, the company has signed up buyers for about 70% of the 40 million tonnes coal the Carmichael project is due to produce in its first phase, with production expected to begin in late 2017.

According to official estimations Carmichael will contribute $2.97bn each year to Queensland’s economy and has the potential to create 6,400 new jobs: around 2,500 construction positions and 3,900 operational posts.

If built, Carmichael would be Australia's largest coal mine.

Adani hits panic button over Carmichael coal mine

by Bob Burton

8 December 2015

In a seemingly desperate move the billionaire chairman of Adani has announced that early in November he met the new Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and demanded legislation be passed to extinguish legal actions challenging the proposed Carmichael coal mine.

On Saturday, a little over a month after his meeting with Turnbull, Gautam Adani complained to journalists that legal challenges against the $15 billion mine, railway and port project had caused banks to refuse to finance the project.

“Ultimately, a decision lies with the politicians. They have to go to Parliament for enacting a special law which says that once government gives approval, no one can challenge it. That is what our request is to the Australian government. You come up with a special legislation which they have done in the past also,” Adani complained.

“Even though there is no stay, because of the judicial review, no lender will finance the project. They do not know what will be the outcome,” Adani told journalists, including the Indian business news website LiveMint.

Adani also bemoaned the dramatic slump in thermal coal process in the seaborne coal market. “In the meanwhile, coal prices have also slumped. We have to revive to the next cycle,” he said.

Adani’s loneliness on display

Adani’s comments, which reveal how isolated the company has become, are extraordinary for three reasons.

Firstly, the fact that Adani has chosen to go public just over a month after the November 4 meeting suggests that Turnbull didn’t immediately accede to Adani’s demand to extinguish the legal rights.

In other words, having failed with his behind-the-scenes lobbying, the company is now pinning its hopes on publicly pressing its case via comments to Indian journalists.

That Adani thinks his brazen demand is likely to play better when made public reveals just how out of touch the company is with the public mood.

Just as Adani’s demand of Turnbull is ham-fisted, his sense of timing is symptomatic of why the project is in deep, deep trouble. At a time of phenomenal smog problems in both New Delhi and Bejing – with coal burning being a significant contributing factor – Adani lets fly at Turnbull.

Nor does Adani seem to be aware that in the middle of the Paris climate talks, which have been buoyed by reports that greenhouse gas emissions might have declined this year and the phenomenal growth in renewables, it’s not a good time to be trying to hype one of the world’s largest proposed coal mines.

Adani‘s expectation of a favourable public reception to his public demand the Australian legal system be distorted to protect his proposed coal mine from legal scrutiny provides a telling insight into the company’s modus operandi.

In case his PR advisers haven’t spelt it out for him it, Adani’s demand was never going to play well: an Indian billionaire publicly dictating that he wants the Australian federal government to pass special legislation to extinguish the legal rights of Australian citizens so that his Indian-owned company can dig up the coal and export it to India in the hope that one day they can make a profit.

It’s not that the Australian Government is entirely unsympathetic, having already signalled that – at the behest of coal lobby groups – it wants to weaken the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. That move though seems destined to be rejected in the Senate.

As Jo Bragg from the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office wrote earlier this year the cases challenging Galilee Basin coal mines “have revealed flawed government assessments and independent evidence that the mining industry has used overestimated jobs figures in promoting its projects.”

That is what coal companies such as Adani fear. Coal company hype might work for state and federal governments but courts can be far more discerning.

Adani’s missive from his Indian headquarters also begs the question: if Adani wants Australian citizens stripped of legal rights today, what will he demand state and federal government’s do tomorrow?

Secondly, Adani’s comments confirm what analysts have been saying for ages: that the project is not financially viable.

While Adani acknowledges the “slump” in global coal prices, his suggestion that he wants the project approved so the company can “revive to the next cycle” implicitly confirms that it is not viable in the current “cycle.”

A recent report by the commodities analysts Platts noted that thermal coal from the Australian port of Newcastle – a benchmark price for the Pacific market – had slumped to US$50 per tonne, the lowest price in a decade. It also noted that the ‘forward price’ for thermal coal in 2021 is US$48 per tonne. Instead of complaining about environmental groups, Adani should be thankful they are saving him from losing a lot of shareholders money.

Adani’s comments also reveal he has yet to even acknowledge the possibility that thermal coal is in structural decline and that it is increasingly likely there will be no “next cycle.”

Finally, Adani’s comment that “no lender will finance the project” – which he attributes solely to the legal action – again confirms that the project is currently unbankable.

As the coal price keeps on falling, the chances of it ever being bankable – even without legal challenges – diminish by the day.

Adani’s public comments reek of a ‘last roll of the dice’ lobbying strategy which to most seasoned observers simply confirms the project is doomed.

Bob Burton is the Hobart-based Editor of CoalWire, a weekly bulletin on global coal industry developments.

Adani meeting shows mining magnates have too much influence

Hannah Aulby

The Age

10 December 2015

The fossil fuel industry's direct access to the highest office in the country speaks of a pernicious dynamic.

Last week billionaire businessman Gautam Adani paid a visit to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asking him to enact a special law to stop anyone challenging big coal and gas projects once they have been approved by government. This meeting raises questions about the relationship between government and big polluting companies.

The Prime Minister is entitled to meet with anyone he likes, you may very well say, but there are two issues here – one is the fossil fuel industry's direct access to power and the other is the implications of that on Australia's democracy.

Turnbull's back room meeting with international billionaire businessman Adani is an example of the warm reception the fossil fuel industry enjoys in Australia. This direct access to the highest office in our country is an unfortunate feature of our democracy, and speaks of the pernicious dynamic where money enables access to power. Just by the way, according to data released by the AEC, Adani donated $49,500 to the Liberal Party of Australia in the 2013-2014 financial year.

The Australian Conservation Foundation is Australia's largest environment group, almost entirely funded by community members. Not government money, not corporate funding. And we have never given political donations.

In contrast to the companies like Adani, it is extremely difficult for community groups or not-for-profit organisations to get face-to-face meetings with the Prime Minister.

ACF recently filed a case against the government over the Adani Carmichael approval. This is a last resort move, and something we have never done on a project at this scale. We are doing it because this proposal is so enormous and we believe the climate change impacts of the project have not been properly considered through the approval processes. We are concerned about the impact on the Great Barrier Reef and the global climate of digging one of the world's largest coal mines in Queensland's Galilee Basin.

If enacted, the special law Adani has requested would stop people who are concerned about the environmental and social impact of these massive mining projects from using the federal courts to ensure our laws are applied correctly. Community groups would no longer be able to hold big fossil fuel companies to account in the federal courts.

It could also set a precedent of companies blocking challenges at a state level, locking out those who will be affected by the projects – the broader Australian community – from being able to oppose them.

There are plenty of examples of community members taking their concerns to our state courts.

Wendy Bowman is a farmer in Camberwell in the Hunter region of NSW. She has been farming in the area since 1957. Ashton Coal, a subsidiary of Yancoal, is trying to extend its open-cut coal mine over Wendy's home. If it goes ahead the project would have massive health impacts on the community and significantly damage the Glennies Creek. The importance of Glennies Creek for the health of the Hunter River, and in particular its importance for irrigation of the nearby Pokolbin and Broke-Fordwich wine regions, led the NSW Office of Water to initially oppose the new mine.

The mine has since been approved however, with no acknowledgement of the value of the environmental and health impacts included in the cost benefit analysis provided in the Environmental Assessment. Concerned about the impacts of the projects, and not wanting to give up her home, Bowman has refused to sell or lease her property to the coal miners. Left with little choice, she had to go to the NSW Land and Environment Court for the right to stay on her own farm. She won the case, and the following appeal, only because she was able to exercise her democratic right to challenge such projects in court.

The special laws requested by Adani, if taken on by other companies, would stop people like Wendy, and thousands of others like her, having their say on the impacts of big fossil fuel projects in the court of law.

It would also set a dangerous precedent. If Turnbull agrees to do Adani's bidding on this project, what will stop the flood of international fossil fuel companies to Canberra demanding special treatment for their projects?

If the government waters down Australia's long-held democratic traditions at the behest of mining magnates our fragile democracy would be seriously weakened.

Hannah Aulby is a clean energy campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Vow to fight mine

Rudi Maxwell

Guardian Workers Weekly

Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) traditional owners were blindsided last week by revelations that Queensland Coordinator-General Barry Broe was proposing to extinguish native title on parts of their traditional lands in the Galilee Basin in order to enable Indian company Adani to develop infrastructure for its $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine.

The day after the W&J Traditional Owners’ Council began making its case in the Federal Court last week against the mine, the ABC revealed documents detailing the plan to acquire part of W&J’s land and convert it to freehold title.

W&J Traditional Owners Council spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said the first he had heard of the proposal was a phone call from an ABC reporter.

He called on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to immediately rule out compulsorily acquiring their land.

“It is beyond comprehension that the government would consider such a shameful and absurd proposal in an era when our rights are sanctioned under international law and when we are already in the Federal Court contesting the state government and Adani’s attempts to override our rights,” Burragubba said.

“I assure the Premier she will be bringing on one of the biggest human rights battles we’ve seen in Queensland in a long time. If destroying our rights and handing our lands to a foreign mining company is on her agenda, she had better think again.”

Burragubba vowed to fight any proposal to extinguish native title on the W&J people’s land. “This proposal won’t stand,” he said. “Not here, not now, not this time. We will fight this all the way to the High Court if need be.

“Never have, never will”

“We do not consent to Carmichael mine, and we never will.

“We have twice rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani. This week, we took on Adani and the Queensland government in the Federal Court, and our case resumes in February. It would be pre-empting the outcome of those proceedings for the government to attempt to compulsorily acquire our native title.

“It would be a shocking precedent for a government in Australia to extinguish title over land against the express opposition of traditional owners, and to hand that land to a private business interest – in this case a massive foreign miner with a disgraceful record of destroying environments and disrupting traditional communities overseas.”

Burragubba said that all native title holders should be aware of the implications if the Queensland government decided to follow the proposal.

“These revelations that our rights in land could be stolen away from us by Mines Minister Anthony Lynham and the Queensland government are an ugly new low in violating the rights of Indigenous peoples of this country,” he said.

“I’m very taken aback, gobsmacked. The things happening to Wangan and Jagalingou people are unbelievable and the process is causing a lot of lateral violence.

“Adani’s disastrous mega-mine threatens to devastate my people’s lands and waters. It will annihilate the ancient, spiritual connection to country that makes us who we are. Its scale and impacts mean our country would literally disappear.

“My people’s future is in self-determination without dependency on mining. Let us be clear again: When we refuse our consent, no means no.”

Earlier in the week, W&J laid out their case in the Federal Court for a judicial review of a decision by the Native Title Tribunal. Lawyer Anthony Esposito said their case relied on several arguments, including that Adani had put information in front of the tribunal, which it relied upon, that was misleading.

Two sets of numbers

“We’re basically saying that Adani had a whole lot of new information regarding the numbers of jobs that the mine would create that it chose not to give the tribunal,” he said.

“And we know that because of expert evidence in the Queensland Land Court revealed exaggeration of numbers and showed there were at least two sets.

“There’s an issue of conduct because the information that the tribunal relied on exaggerated the benefits of the mine, therefore the public interest overriding the rights of traditional owners is also misleading.”

The case will continue in February.

Adani boss Jeyakumar Janakaraj failed to disclose link to African pollution disaster before Carmichael coal mine was approved

Exclusive by the National Reporting Team's Mark Willacy

10 December 2015

The man driving Australia's biggest mining project failed to disclose that a company he ran in Africa was guilty of serious environmental breaches, despite being asked to do so in a letter from the federal Environment Department.

The ABC revealed last month that Adani Mining's chief executive and Australian head, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, was in charge of a Zambian copper mine when it discharged dangerous contaminants into a major river in 2010.

The ABC has obtained a letter from the Environment Department to Mr Janakaraj in August seeking "information about environmental history of executive officers".

The letter stated that it believed executive officers would include "the directors and chief executive officer of Adani Mining".

The letter asked the company to provide information about any executive officer who "has been the subject of any civil or criminal penalties or compliance-related findings, for breaches of, or non-compliance with environmental laws... ...[and] information about his or her roles both in Australia and in other countries".

The information was needed for the Environment Minister's assessment of Adani's proposed $16 billion Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland.

The minister approved the mega-mine for a second time in October with "36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history".

After the approval, the ABC revealed that Mr Janakaraj had been the director of operations of the KCM copper mine in Zambia when the company pleaded guilty to four charges, including polluting the environment and wilfully failing to report an incident of pollution.

Mr Janakaraj was described in the 2009 annual report of KCM's parent company as being "responsible for overall operations of KCM".

"It's clear the criminal prosecution in 2010 in Zambia when Mr Janakaraj was director of operations at KCM, so an executive officer, would fall within the parameters of that request from the Department of Environment," lawyer Ariane Wilkinson from Environmental Justice Australia said.

In Senate estimates hearings the day after the ABC broke the story, Environment Department official Dean Knudson said the information about the Zambian pollution incident had not been known by the department or Minister Greg Hunt when he was assessing the Carmichael mine.

"In terms of why this information was not included in that assessment... that's why we've asked Adani to come back and clarify that question," Mr Knudson said last month.

Planning Australia's biggest mine

Step through the key events in the planning of Australia's biggest mining project, the $16 billion Carmichael coal mine in remote central Queensland.

Adani has submitted its clarification to the department, but the company declined to release it to the ABC.

"Both Adani and Mr Janakaraj stand by their earlier remarks," a company spokesman said.

"It would not be appropriate to release this correspondence while the Environment Department considers matters relating to the response to which you have referred."

The ABC also repeatedly asked the Environment Department if it would release the company's explanation about why Mr Janakaraj's role with KCM during the pollution event was not included in Adani's assessment. The department said it was still considering the matter.

In the August letter to Mr Janakaraj, obtained by the ABC, the department asked him for a range of information about the environmental history of Adani's executive officers, including:

The letter asked for information going back a decade.

"If any company provides false or misleading information to the environment department when seeking to get an environmental approval that is actually an offence under federal environmental law, in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act," Ms Wilkinson said.

"So if any company is reckless or negligent in the information they provide, it's an offence and there are criminal fines and prosecutions that can be brought."

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