It was once touted as Australia’s biggest coal mine and a mega project that would create 10,000 jobs but the oft-promised construction of Adani’s Carmichael mine still seems unlikely despite recent announcements.
Last month there seemed to be a breakthrough. After struggling to secure finance to build the mine, Adani announced it would self-fund a scaled-back version and suggested work could begin this year.
The mine was originally expected to be a $16.5 billion project but will now only cost $2 billion. It will create an estimated 1500 direct jobs during the construction phase, much less than previous claims of 10,000 direct and indirect jobs.
This week a spokeswoman for Adani Australia told news.com.au that “preparatory works at the mine site are imminent”.
“We are working with regulators to finalise the remaining required management plans ahead of coal production, some of which have been subject to two years of state and federal government review,” she said.
“This process is expected to be complete and provided by governments in the next few
The Australian reported on Friday that bulldozers, graders and service vehicles were sent to the site this week.
Earth moving equipment at Adani site.
However, there’s scepticism about the suggestion work on Adani’s mine is about to get started as it has made premature declarations before.
More than a year ago, in October 2017, Adani scheduled a ceremony to break ground on the coal mine’s rail link.
Adani chairman Gautam Adani was due to attend alongside then-deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce. But the ceremony was cancelled due to rain and was never rescheduled.
This was hardly surprising given a government-funded $1 billion loan it was relying on to build a 389-km rail line hadn’t yet been approved.
The Palaszczuk Government later decided to veto the loan from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility ahead of the Queensland election.
Meanwhile environmental groups have continue to wage war on the project and protests are continuing, even for the scaled-down version of the mine.
Protesters ambushed Bill Shorten at Labor’s National Conference on Sundayand the dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Dr Peter Catt said he was willing to be arrested standing in front of bulldozers to stop the Adani mine from going ahead.
Dean Dr Peter Catt at St John Anglican Cathedral.
“Both sides of politics are refusing to face the moral implications of coal expansion,” the reverend said at the event Carols for the Earth in Brisbane.
“I will join other citizens standing in front of Adani bulldozers to make political leaders take our climate crisis seriously. I’m calling on people of all faiths to take this same step.”
Concerns about the mine’s potential impact on climate change have continued to grow, particularly after a report from the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested the use of coal-powered electricity would have to be cut to practically nothing by 2050 to keep global warming to 1.5C.
Even at 1.5C warming most of the world’s coral reefs including the Great Barrier Reef would be lost.
Meanwhile, Adani may be able to start “preparatory works” but there are a few other issues that need to be resolved before it has clear air to move forward.
MORE APPROVALS NEEDED
Adani is not required to submit a new Environment Authority application for its smaller mine but there are approvals it doesn’t yet have.
A spokeswoman for the Queensland Department of Environment and Science said “significant disturbance cannot commence until the required environmental plans for the mine are approved and in place”.
Adani has been asked to update its groundwater dependent ecosystems management plan after the CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific organisation, identified serious flaws, according to the ABC.
The CSIRO was asked to review Adani’s plan by the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy. Geoscience Australia has also been asked to look at it.
Adani will now have to update its plans to identify the source of the aquifer of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex and measures it will take to protect the springs.
The plan must be approved before the Adani can start excavation of the first box cut, which is a small open cut that acts as an entrance to an underground mine.
The entrance to the box cut at Jabiluka Uranium Mine. Picture: Rohan Kelly. Picture: Supplied
The Queensland department spokeswoman said the state will also take the scientific reviews into consideration as part of its assessment.
“Preliminary advice from CSIRO requires Adani to update the plan,” the spokeswoman said.
She said the department had told Adani it would not continue its assessment until an updated version was submitted and noted there was no “statutory time frame” for assessment to happen.
“The Queensland Government takes environmental protections very seriously and will consider the advice of the (federal department), CSIRO and Geoscience Australia when assessing the plans,” she said.
Both the groundwater plan and a black-throated finch management plan will need to be signed off by state and federal governments.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Department of Environment and Energy told news.com.au the Carmichael biodiversity research fund mechanism would also need to be approved before Adani could start “mining operations”.
The Queensland Government granted Adani a water licence last year to allow it to take up to 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River.
The Federal Government is also required to look at projects likely to have a significant impact on water resources but Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price chose this year not to activate the “water trigger” that would have required a full environmental impact assessment.
Instead only preliminary documentation was considered.
This month the Australian Conservation Foundation launched legal action for a judicial review of this decision. No court date has yet been set.
Until this action is resolved, Adani won’t be able to take water from the Suttor River system although Adani has said this won’t stop it from starting work on the project.
Adani has yet to finalise a royalty agreement with the Queensland Government.
It had been in negotiations to allow it to defer payments for the first few years but the deal was never signed. Then in May last year the Palaszczuk Government unveiled a new policy for all developments in the Galilee and Surat Basins and the North West Minerals Province.
The new resources framework allows royalties to be deferred but insists that interest is paid and companies must also ensure “security of payment” is in place.
Eligible projects are required to provide jobs, common-user infrastructure and to have a positive impact on the state’s finances.
However, the government will only enter into an agreement with approved projects and Adani’s mine has not yet been approved.
A spokeswoman for the Deputy Premier Jackie Trad told news.com.au Adani would pay royalties like everyone else.
“No taxpayers money will go to toward this project,” she said.
NATIVE TITLE ACTION
The Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council has been fighting Adani’s indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) saying a vote to approve it had been a sham. The council disputes that 294 people voted for the agreement and only one against.
The W&J lost its legal action but is appealing the decision in the Federal Court. This week it was ordered to pay $50,000 by the end of January as part of a security of costs order to show it was capable of paying Adani’s legal costs if it lost the appeal.
The appeal was due to be heard in February but has now been delayed until May.
W&J traditional owner and lead spokesman Adrian Burragubba said for Adani to act before the appeal was decided would be to “deny our rights and open the way for a grave injustice”.
“Without our consent, the mine is not ready to proceed,” he said.
Adrian Burragubba outside the Federal Court in Brisbane, Friday, August 17, 2018. Picture: Darren England/AAP
RAIL LINE NEGOTIATIONS
Another question remains over whether Aurizon has approved Adani’s request to connect to its existing railway line.
An Adani spokeswoman said Adani had submitted a conceptual operation plan for its new narrow gauge rail line and was working through the “regulatory process”.
“Once it is complete we will commence construction of the rail line,” she said.
When asked whether an agreement had been reached, an Aurizon spokeswoman said it had to treat all requests confidentially.
“Therefore we cannot comment on any discussions that may occur with any third-party,” she said.
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