SATURDAY’S round of protests against the Adani Group’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland saw an estimated 16,000 people gather at 45 sites around the country, including Newcastle’s Nobbys Beach.
Although the Carmichael mine was approved two years ago by the federal and Queensland governments, its growing army of opponents will continue to apply the pressure by whatever means they can, hoping to stop the project before it starts by convincing the global banking sector not to finance it.
The Galilee Basin, where Carmichael is situated, was long ago identified by the Queensland government as a future coal field, although its distance from the coast had previously been the major impediment to development. Hence Adani’s push for a $1 billion federal loan to build a 380 kilometre rail line to Abbot Point. But now, with public sentiment, even in traditionally pro-mining areas, turning against coal, the cost of rail-hauling its product to port appears to be the least of Adani’s worries.
Company founder Guatam Adani might still have the confidence of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the support of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, but his company has found itself public enemy number one on the environmental lobby’s hit list.
Although the Adani Group has brushed off its impact, there is every reason to believe that last week’s Four Corners investigation of Adani’s domestic coal and port operations in India will have opened up a new front of reputational damage for the company.
The ABC program found ample evidence that Adani had run roughshod over Indian environmental law, a major consideration given the ground water concerns at Carmichael itself, and the fear that an expanded Abbot Point coal loader could damage the Great Barrier Reef.
At the end of the day, the key to Carmichael’s viability is intrinsically tied to India’s domestic energy policy, given that most, if not all, of its output is destined for Indian power stations.
Coal supplies 60 per cent of India’s electricity, but renewables are making inroads, driven by falling instillation costs and pro-renewable government policies.
Only Adani knows if it can make the mine work, financially, but the longer it takes to get its funding in order, the greater the chances that the coal will stay in the ground.