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Journey into Obsolescence: The Adani Carmichael Project

The Carmichael mine being pursued in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland is a dinosaur before its creation. On paper, it is hefty – to be some five times the size of Sydney Harbour, the largest in Australia and one of the largest on the planet. Six open cut and five underground mines covering some 30 kilometres are proposed, a gargantuan epic. The coal itself would be transported through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area, and would feature a rail line subsidised by the money of Australian taxpayers.

Even before the initial steps are taken, its realisation is doomed to obsolescent indulgence and environmental wearing. It has been endorsed by a bribed political class best represented by Liberal senator Matt Canavan, who sees Adani through tinted glasses as a “little Aussie battler”; it is run by an unelected plutocratic one. This venture has seen Australian politicians, protoplasmic and spineless, do deals with a company run by a billionaire in a way that sneers at democracy and mocks the common citizenry.

The Adani group, run by its persistent Chairman Gautam Adani, has worked out what political figures want to hear and how far it can go, even in the face of mounting opposition. His closeness to the halls of power has been noted: influential be he who has the ear of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

How divisive the Carmichael project is between Australia’s morally flexible politicians and a growing body of disaffected citizenry can be gathered from the open letter to the Adani Group from some 90 notable Australians that was submitted in the first part of last year. The list was impressively eclectic: authors such as Richard Flanagan and Tim Winton; investment banker Mark Burrows; and former Australian test cricket captains Ian and Greg Chappell. (“The thought,” Ian Chappell ruefully, “that this could affect the relationship, hopefully, that’ll get through.”)

The text of the note was simple enough. “We are writing to respectfully ask you to abandon the Adani Group’s proposal in Queensland’s Galilee Basin… Pollution from burning coal was the single biggest driver of global warming, threatening life in Australia, India and all over the world.”

That same year, the British medical journal The Lancet deemed the Adani mine project a “public health disaster” though Australian authorities remain indifferent to recommendations that independent health assessments be conducted on the impact of the mine. In very tangible ways, air pollution arising from the burning of coal is a global killer. Australia’s menacing own contribution to this casualty list comes in at around three thousand a year; in India, the list, according to a 2013 study by the Mumbai-based Conservation Action Trust, is an eye-popping 115,000. “I didn’t expect the mortality figures per year,” remarked Debi Goenka, executive trustee of the Conservation Action Trust, “to be so high.”

The trends in energy generation and resources are against fossil fuels, and even the banks have heeded this, refusing to supply a credit line to the company. But Adani knows a gullible audience when he sees one. Like a sadhu aware of a westerner’s amenability to mysticism, the chairman and his worthies say the rights things, and encourage the appropriate response from the ruling classes they are wooing. The company feeds them the fodder and rose water they wish to hear, and massages them into appreciative stances. The campaign by the Indian company has been so comprehensive as to include decision makers from every level of government that might be connected with the mine.

Adani, not to be deterred by delays of some six years, has suggested that it will pursue a different model, though this remains vague. Extravagance is being reined in, supposedly trimmed and slimmed: targets will be cut by three-quarters, and the company has now promised to finance the project itself. “We will now,” claimed Adani Mining CEO Lucas Dow this week, “be developing a smaller open-cut mine comparable to many other Queensland coal mines and will ramp up production over time.”

Nothing this company says should ever be taken at face value. Exaggeration and myth-making is central to its platform. Slyly, the company’s Australian operation is also given a deceptive wrapping; a visit to the company’s website will see information on Adani’s efforts to “become the leading supplier of renewable energy in Australia.”

Dow has become a missionary of sorts, repeatedly telling Queenslanders that the project can only mean jobs, and more jobs. Astrological projections more in league with tarot card reading are used. Last November, Dow, in a media statement, was brimming with optimism over those “indirect jobs” that would be created in Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay and the Isaac region. “Economic modelling, such as that used by the Queensland Resources Council in its annual resources industry economic impact report, show that each direct job in the industry in Queensland supports another four and a half jobs in related industries and businesses, therefore we can expect to see more than 7,000 jobs created by the initial ramp-up of the Carmichael project.”

Not merely does the Carmichael mine smack of a crude obsolescence before the first lumps of coal are mined; it is bound to take a wrecking ball to any emissions reduction strategy Australia might intend pursuing. (Matters are already half-hearted as they are in Canberra, poisoned by a fractious energy lobby and ill-gotten gains stakeholders.) Professor Andrew Stock of the Climate Council has explained that once coal begins being burned, Australia’s “total emissions” are set to double, nothing less than an act of “environmental vandalism”. Work on the mine will also contribute to such despoliation: the clearing of 20,200 hectares of land will add to the climate chance quotient; the Great Artesian Basin’s groundwater system will also be affected.

Another graphic projection is also being suggested. For the duration of its projected 60-year lifespan, as epidemiologist Fiona Stanley reminds us, Adani’s venture will produce as much carbon as all of Australia’s current coal-fired power stations combined. All this, even as the Indian state promises to phase out thermal coal imports, rendering the Adani coal project a white, if vandalising elephant. The only difference now is that the elephant proposed is somewhat smaller in scale and size.


19 comments

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  1. New England Cocky

    An old adage: “Never trust an Indian bearing gifts”.

  2. AJ O'Grady

    Could Adani’s sudden start to the mine be a ploy that they may obtain a large compensation payout if Labor wins the next election as what happened in Victoria?

  3. Diannaart

    What a coincidence – Adani is a little Aussie battler and I’m an Indian warrior god.

  4. Trish Corry

    The Adani Coalmine will now be approximately the same size as the Blackwater mine. Do stop Adani activists now believe Blackwater and other similar sized mines should be shut down tomorrow? Adani has not started after all, and is accused of everything from the plague to the earth blowing up tomorrow. Therefore isn’t Blackwater mine the same threat and should be shut down tomorrow? What is your message for these workers and suppliers in Industry?

  5. Kaye Lee

    Jobs and exports from existing coal regions will be decimated if the Galilee Basin is developed for coal mining, according to new research.

    Globally renowned resource analytics firm Wood Mackenzie, which conducted the research, is forecasting massive reductions in future coal output from the NSW Hunter Valley and significant falls in Queensland’s Bowen and Surat basins.

    Ten new mining projects or mine expansions in the NSW Hunter Valley would be displaced by the Galilee Basin output and shelved or delayed
    Eight mining projects or expansions would be delayed or shelved in Queensland
    Hunter Valley thermal coal output would fall by some 86 million tonnes, or 37 per cent
    Bowen Basin output would decline by nearly a third, with 17 million fewer tonnes mined
    The Surat Basin in south-east Queensland, which is yet to be developed, would produce 37 per cent less coal than it otherwise would

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-06/galilee-basin-mining-project-will-reduce-coal-output:-research/8682164

    If you are concerned about existing jobs in coal mining, opening up the Galilee Basin should be the last thing you want.

  6. Keith

    Trish

    Are you aware of what the IPCC recent Report stated?
    The Report was written by 91 scientists using 6,000 research references to uphold their conclusions.

    Another even larger Report has been published subsequently in the US, which upholds the IPCC Report .. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/30112018/fact-check-trump-climate-science-denial-national-assessment-sanders-global-warming?utm_source=InsideClimate+News&utm_campaign=555114f7c8-&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_29c928ffb5-555114f7c8-327850601
    bles

    There are hyperlinks to the US Report in the reference.

    There are far more jobs in research and development of renewables, and in renewable installation.
    Fossil fuels cause illness and death .. Lancet, British Medical Journal, and Doctors for the Environment, Australia.

  7. Matters Not

    Re;

    If you are concerned about existing jobs in coal mining

    I think the issue is much more complicated than that. Why should some workers in central Queensland be (effectively) denied employment opportunities in an industry that employs so many in other parts of the country – and does so without penalty?

    Yes their non-employment might be for the common good, but why should certain individuals (only) have to bear that brunt? Just the luck of the draw? It’s how the market works (but doesn’t in this instance)? Perhaps we can do better than that?

    How about we ban all petrol and diesel powered vehicles from the streets of Sydney and Melbourne? Given their polluting effects.

  8. Kaye Lee

    Why should people who are currently employed have their jobs put at risk by a new coal mine? And what of those whose livelihood depends on reef tourism? Is a job opportunity more important that any consideration of the damage that job may cause? And what will happen to revenue and jobs if, as is predicted, the new mine sent coal prices lower? Just how many people will this mine, which is supposed to be fully automated from pit to port, actually employ? Yes. it is much more complicated than just a question of some people in Central Queensland wanting a job. I would suggest they would have a great deal more job security in renewable energy, recycling, and mine reclamation.

  9. RomeoCharlie29

    This is a classic case of the gutless decision-makers of today not giving a flying fuck about the impacts of the decisions they make because they won’t be around when the chickens of either climate change or restitution come home to roost.

    The only way these decisions won’t be made is if the likes of Canavan, lose their seats.

  10. Matters Not

    All valid questions KL, but what principle should we employ (or develop) when faced with this issue of – arriving at a common good by sacrificing the interests of the few.

    The current government via its direct action plan effectively paid potential polluters – not to pollute. Maybe the miners of central Queensland (and others) could be considered for similar treatment?

    And if not – then why not? Perhaps it would be too complicated? But that’s hardly a principle.

    (PS – I’m not in favor of the Adani mine, but I’m not in favour of just abandoning miners.)

  11. Kaye Lee

    I did hear Labor say something about employment in areas that may be impacted by mine closures (or non-opens) though I didn’t hear anything specific. They do need a plan for an adjusting workplace and not just in mining. What happened to the people from the car manufacturing industry when it closed? Did people who owned video stores get compensation from the government or did they just have to take the loss and move on? The Productivity Commission said that 1 in 5 new jobs created by 2020 (this was some time ago) would be in the NDIS – currently many of them are filled by 457 visa workers. We need better co-ordination between anticipating skills needs and training people to fill them before we have a shortage. The government could give scholarships or fee relief in needed areas of study or (re)training.

  12. Miriam English

    How about we ban all petrol and diesel powered vehicles from the streets of Sydney and Melbourne? Given their polluting effects.

    That would be wonderful, and I expect that time will come, but we’d need a government that wasn’t doing everything they could to stall electric vehicles first.

    Why do politicians have no interest in jobs when it concerns small business? Giant corporations can demolish small businesses and skin their suppliers, but politicians don’t lift a finger, yet one of their corporate bribing buddies is blocked by citizens, and suddenly politicians feign concern for workers and jobs.

    Renewable energy is now cheaper and supplies far more jobs than the exaggerated employment numbers of new coal mines, especially when you consider that Adani boasts that theirs will be the most automated mine in the world. Not only that, solar and wind jobs don’t kill their workers, or people in the wider community. Studies in Newcastle have found that people who live near coal-carrying rail lines suffer outrageously high rates of respiratory disease and death. Why would anybody want to preserve jobs associated with death and disease, let alone increase their number? Help those workers into much greater numbers of clean jobs instead.

    Sorry, Trish, but your concern for workers sounds confected… or at least confused.

  13. Kaye Lee

    The car industry are fighting tooth and nail against any sort of vehicle emissions standards.

    “The Murdoch papers reported dire warnings from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries that an emissions standard being “actively considered” by the Turnbull government would take some of the nation’s highest selling cars out of the market.

    And, as usual, the paper did not have to go far to find an LNP member who was equally outraged. In this case, it found Nationals senator John Williams, who vowed to resist any new standard that stopped rural and regional Australians from buying their vehicle of choice.”

    https://reneweconomy.com.au/ice-lobby-strikes-out-against-car-emissions-standards-78071/

  14. paul walter

    I found this supposition from OJ O’Grady interesting.

    The whole long saga is redolent of funny shonks, offshore banking and political involvement and the funny and obscured FTA clauses.

    I find Kaye Lee’s scepticism a bit healtier than some of the starry eyed stuff. The Banks here, Oxycodone, the problem that Australians don’t know about involving big Pharma in the USA, previous antics from the tobacco industry and its mouthpieces, odd wars in the Mid East and all the corrupt stuff that goes with that, Monsanto and on and on and on.

    No, people should not be expected to accept at face value anything big business and bought and sold politics says.

    Kaye Lee rightly asks, what about all the other already invested in better quality coal and gas projects, let alone the sabotage over time of alternative energy research and development.

  15. helvityni

    My mood soured just looking at the above photo…better have some breakfast…..

  16. ChristopherJ

    Thank you for another thought provoking article.

    Any focus on jobs should remember that coal dust kills people. It is a hazardous, dirty industry where worker safety and the environment are given but token attention. And, much of the newer operations are being automated, so the jobs claim is an exaggeration by the company.

    And, when the mine becomes uneconomic, well, surprise, surprise, the clean up is found to be uneconomic as well.

    No new mines. Shut the industry down. Never got my last coal cheque, either

  17. Barry

    Agree paul, OJ O’Gradys suggestion that the LNP might be leaving a litigation legacy for Labor sounds about right. From memory, at State level, didn’t the out-going Qld LNP Sweeny-Newman govt do a deal with Adani that left the incoming Labor govt exposed to a law suit if they didn’t proceed? LNP has form. ‘Adani + corruption’ > https://adanifiles.com.au/

  18. Wendy Leigh

    Barry – to my memory from the time you are correct, Labor was hamstrung by Newman over the deal. Interestingly, Palaszczuk isn’t concerned about this latest announcement from Adani. Apparently the process for approvals is incomplete. I tend to agree, as this is about the 7th announcement that construction was imminent since 2012.

    I have also read that Adani is playing smoke and mirrors with this mine to make Abbott Point a viable instead of stranded asset on their books. This also makes sense to me. There has been much said over the supposed ‘thousands of jobs’ but an Adani rep stated under oath during a court proceeding a few years ago that at most, 1400 positions (including indirect) would be created; as the plan was for almost full automation. This is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of tourism jobs which are impacted by detrimental mining impacts on the GBR.

    Regarding job re-skilling for miners – perhaps this discovery might be relevant. https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2018-11-30/rare-earth-mineral-find-to-boost-electric-vehicle-sector/10562460

  19. Joseph Carli

    Good post.

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