Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin is frequently in the news for the very good reason that it is a very controversial development.
The Federal and Queensland Governments are both in favour of it because they claim it will have enormous economic benefits.
Despite this governmental enthusiasm, community opposition continues to grow for a variety of reasons. Firstly there is the environmental impact that this mine will have both in its immediate area as well as globally.
With a proposed annual extraction of 60 million tonnes per year it will be the largest coal mine in the world. So the carbon emissions generated from the coal’s extraction and combustion will have a very significant impact on the world’s climate. Those concerned about the accelerating rate of climate change argue that this mine will have an unacceptable impact on the world’s climate. They believe new coal mines should not be opened and that existing mines need to be systematically closed down unless they are essential for specific industries such as steel production.
This mine will also have an impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR), which runs for 2,300 km along the Queensland coast and covers an area of approximately 344,400 sq. km, is under threat from climate change and a variety of other impacts including port development and coal spills. As well as being an incredible natural wonder, the Reef is a major tourist attraction. So it is a very significant earner for the Queensland and Australian economies as more than two million people visit it each year generating earnings of more than $2 billion. . Moreover, it is a major employer with more than 60,000 people employed in Reef tourism.
Last year there was a major bleaching event on the Reef. This year there has been another. Two such major events in consecutive years was formerly unprecedented. These events have highlighted how vulnerable coral reefs are to the warming seas produced by climate change. So concern about the Reef is another very strong reason for opposition to this mine and to the other mega-mines that are on the drawing board for the Galilee Basin.
Although some supporters claim up to 10,000 jobs would be generated by the mine, Adani’s consultants put the figure at less than 1,500 full time jobs.
While the Queensland and Federal Governments talk up the job prospects from the Carmichael mine, they ignore the importance of the many thousands of tourist jobs reliant on a healthy Great Barrier Reef, a Reef that is currently under threat from the impacts of climate change.
Other claimed economic benefits are also questionable. Given the world-wide move away from coal to renewables there is a strong likelihood (actually a certainty according to many analysts) that this project, which theoretically would have a life of 60 years, will become a stranded asset. That is one of the reasons Adani is having difficulty in sourcing investment capital.
What is really astounding is, given the likelihood that this will become a stranded asset, the Federal Government is considering giving Adani a loan of almost $1 billion of taxpayers’ money to build a rail line from the Galilee Basin to the coal port at Abbot Point 25 km north of Bowen. The loan would be obtained from the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) a fund which has recently been criticised in relation to governance issues.