Hunter's compelling reasons to reject mine

PEOPLE POWER: Protests will be held on Saturday for the Stop Adani National Day of Action, including one at Nobbys Beach.
PEOPLE POWER: Protests will be held on Saturday for the Stop Adani National Day of Action, including one at Nobbys Beach.

Coal is on the downturn, as most people involved in the Hunter’s mining industry would admit.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that within 13 years wind and solar will provide half the world’s energy, and by mid-century traditional coal power will cease.  India, South Korea and China all are diversifying their energy sources responding to local protests over water and air pollution.

Meanwhile the Adani Carmichael coal mine proposed for central Queensland would be the largest in Australia,  producing an average 60 million tonnes of coal a year.   

Considering the downturn in coal price and consumption,  the Carmichael mine directly threatens jobs in the Hunter by increasing global coal supply. This opinion is shared by Shortland MP Pat Conroy and Newcastle Port’s owner Johnathon Van Rooyan.  

This may be why some people in the Hunter oppose Adani’s mega mine, but it’s not the most compelling reason.   

The Adani project makes little sense economically in light of India’s ambitious plan to have 57% of its energy needs sourced by renewables by 2030. India is one of the top five countries for investment in renewable power and fuels. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis  has praised Indian power minister Piyush  Goyal’s 10 year energy plan as commercially viable and justified without subsidies.  

Solar is  the best way of bringing power to 240 million people in rural and remote areas of India via decentralized and off-grid systems where solar prices have dropped by 80% in the past year.  A recent survey of  India’s renewable sector found it could create 300,000 direct jobs, while India’s National Solar Mission aims to transform the country into a global solar manufacturing hub. These trends run counter to the Australian Minister for Resources Matt Canavan’s claim that the Carmichael mine is a humanitarian project needed to lift India out of energy poverty.

One of the most alarming reasons Hunter residents, along with the rest of Australia, should oppose the Carmichael project is that Adani expects Australian taxpayers to provide its lifeline.  Adani  needs to source finance from the  taxpayer-funded Northern Australia Infrastruture Facility (NAIF).  Despite years of searching, Adani has been unable  to find the money it needs to build Carmichael.  Globally 23 banks have refused to back it, simply because it is not a good investment.

So why the urgency or necessity for the Carmichael mine? Why are taxpayers funding what appears to be a risky investment?

The ABC’s 4 Corners investigation “Digging Into Adani”, which aired this week (Oct 2) highlighted Adani’s extremely poor reputation as a corporate citizen,  exposing allegations of bribery, corruption and wilful flouting of environmental regulations.  In Australia,  Adani has already been caught dumping coal-laden stormwater into the sea at Abbot Point, yet the Queensland government has granted the company an exemption from environmental laws concerning the use of groundwater.

The terms of Adani’s royalties are shrouded in secrecy but according to the Australian Institute they could amount to a A$370-725 million subsidy, and on top of a NAIF loan  up to $1bn.

Having conducted academic research concerning the influence of corporate interests in politics, I am angry that the Federal Government is considering giving money to support this project, that threatens the climate, squanders water, trashes indigenous rights and risks the Great Barrier Reef.

I believe the Adani project is yet another example of  social-economic and environmental interests being subjugated to corporate and political special interests.

Protest events will be held all around the country  for the Stop Adani National Day of Action on Saturday October 7, including one at Nobbys Beach.

Hunter residents have plenty of good reasons to attend.

Rebecca Simpson is a Newcastle resident, has an MA in politics and is a researcher of social economic justice and political economy.