Adani is about to ship his first coal – is this failure for Australia’s defining climate campaign? | Carmichael Coal Mine
In 2010, an Indian mining company bought properties on a giant, untapped coalfield in West Queensland.
The purchase, by conglomerate Adani Group, kicked off one of the most controversial and controversial resource projects in Australian history – the Coal Mine and Road Project. Carmichael iron.
Before the end of the year, and about eight years late, Adani announces that he will finally export his first coal, intended to be burned in a power station.
The moment will be celebrated as a victory by his supporters, including many Queensland MPs and regional senators and Tory commentators.
Australian Resources Minister Keith Pitt was at the mine site in October – about 300 km west of Mackay – to record a video celebrating the first coal mined. It would mean jobs and prosperity, he said.
Earlier this week, Adani Australia chief executive Lucas Dow told the ABC that coal had already been delivered to the company’s port at Abbot Point as the company tested new trains on the new 200km. railway lines. “We are very excited that the project is coming to an end,” he said.
But for its opponents, including climate change activists and some traditional owners, the Carmichael Project has always been synonymous with danger and it has become the subject of a campaign with an uncompromising two-word slogan: Stop Adani.
As the first coal waits to make its way through the shipping canals of the Great Barrier Reef, what now for this campaign?
“We would have preferred to stop Adani when she was passing the permits, or when she was looking for financing and then under construction. If we have to wait for the project to move the coal, then that’s what we’ll do, ”says Julien Vincent, executive director of Market Forces, a campaign group that has worked to cut Adani’s opportunities to fund and sell. secure the mine.
“There is no asterisk, warning or small print. There are no conditions. It’s just Stop Adani, ”he says.
The Galilee Basin has around 23 billion tonnes of coal.
When the first mine was proposed in 2012, Adani was one of nine projects targeting the basin.
At the time, Greenpeace estimated that if all the mines were in operation, burning coal would release around 700 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, almost one and a half times the annual greenhouse gas emissions. from Australia.
But if Adani was not the first company to declare an interest, it is the only one to extract coal in the immense basin of Galilee.
Adani’s success could mean opening the entire basin to coal development.
The original plans for the mine were to dig around 60 million tonnes of coal per year, making it Australia’s largest coal mine and one of the largest in the world.
After nearly a decade – and almost eight years behind the original coal mining schedule – the company now claims to have reduced the project to around 10 million tonnes. But Adani still holds approvals for these higher levels.
In some accounts, the Adani mine helped tip the balance in the 2019 federal election. Final state government approvals were pending and Adani launched an advertising and mailbox campaign criticizing the government of the Labor State for its management of the project.
Fringe seats in central and north Queensland gave way to the Coalition heavily and within days of the election state Labor asked Adani for the required approvals, in some cases over concerns from the government’s own experts concerning management plans for threatened species.
Susan Harris Rimmer, director of the Policy Innovation Hub at Griffith University, says the mine has become emblematic of a wider debate on jobs and climate action in the Queensland region.
“The politicians there use strong binary language,” she said.
“They’re going to keep doing it, because it worked. It’s the same with immigration or terrorism. That works [as a political strategy] so people are going to fall back on it. There is a playbook, they will try again.
Harris Rimmer said the anti-Adani convoy, led by former Greens leader Bob Brown, had become a flashpoint and helped spread ‘us and them’ rhetoric in parts of Queensland.
“I think this convoy has become an image of people from the south, who lose nothing, we [in regional Queensland] look like the bad guys.
“This is what it looked like, I’m sure that’s not how it was supposed to, but it looked like [people] come tell this stupid community not to do that.
“A shit moment”
In 2020, the Adani Group began removing its own name from its Australian operations. First, the company renamed its mining operations from Adani to Bravus.
Then he changed the name of the terminal from Adani Abbot Point, north of Bowen, to North Queensland Export Terminal (the words Adani and coal do not appear on the company’s website).
“This name change definitely gave the impression that the name Adani was becoming an obstacle,” explains Vincent. “If you have confidence in your brand, you don’t change it for anything else. “
Vincent says the campaign had other ripple effects far away from Adani’s mine.
“This has been the catalyst for dozens of financial institutions around the world to exclude thermal coal projects,” he says. “The risk of being associated with large [coal] projects has become a kryptonite of reputation.
In May, fossil fuel producers complained to a parliamentary inquiry that campaigns against the industry are now making it more difficult to finance and insure large projects.
Adani told the inquest he was denied loans and insurance, and entrepreneurs and business partners walked away.
In a communication, the company said that “the boycott of the Australian thermal coal industry by Australian banks and insurance companies is wrong and indifferent to the obvious damage their decisions will have on the industry’s ability to stay. globally competitive “and this would have an impact on the Australian economy.
Vincent says that while the first coal shipped is “a shitty moment for the countryside,” the major financial groups continue to distance themselves from the project, joining dozens of others.
Last month, one of the world’s largest banks cut ties with the project, claiming the company is incompatible with its environmental, social and governance rules.
Activists continue to target the project – locking themselves on railroad tracks and rolling stock and hanging from cranes at the company’s port. Two protesters boarded one of the project’s trains this week and spent a day shoveling coal over it.
Separately, some traditional owners Wangan and Jagalingou have long opposed the project, saying it would destroy their cultural lands and endanger the sacred springs of Doongmabulla. The miner has a formal land use agreement with the Wangan and Jagalingou peoples, but the agreement is contested by some traditional owners.
The traditional owners have been practicing continuous cultural ceremonies on the mining lease for more than 90 days.
Adrian Burragubba, a traditional owner who has been fighting Adani for years, says Adani “shouldn’t be partying”.
Her family and other traditional owners fear that cultural sites containing “literally thousands of artifacts” could be disturbed.
Burragubba says his son Coedy McAvoy has been in the field since August 28 performing ceremonies. “He declares that he will stay there,” said Burragubba. “It’s our job to take care of the land and watch what the mining company is doing. “
Adani called on the police to intervene to remove McAvoy, as well as to take stronger action against various protesters targeting the railroad.
In October, police told McAvoy and other campers on the company’s mining lease that they would not withdraw them “just yet.”
The Australian Conservation Foundation, a member of the Stop Adani Alliance, successfully revoked federal approval of the mine’s water supply program earlier this year, with the issue still unresolved.
ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said the campaign still had a long way to go. As insurers, financiers and entrepreneurs moved away, there were “still questions about the viability” of the project.
She says the group will work “incredibly hard” to stop the opening of the Galilee Basin, but Stop Adani is a defining climate campaign.
“Your position on Adani indicated your position on the climate, particularly political. It became a litmus test.
“ACF has focused on intensifying the clean future and we could not have interested people in this without the end of coal and gas. I think we’ve won the public argument on this.
Since the campaign against Adani began, global financial markets have moved away from coal. At the Glasgow climate summit, more than 40 countries agreed to phase out coal-fired electricity.
“If we decide that in 2021 we can’t add more coal to the global market, then that’s a decision we have to stick to,” says Vincent.
During the campaign, many other fossil fuel projects were announced, developed and approved. Has the focus on Adani shifted the countryside – and the public eye – to one place in North Queensland?
“Even a dark firmament needs its darkest stars,” says David Ritter, Managing Director of Greenpeace Australia Pacific.
“The scale of the Galilee basin required this attention.
“But the campaign has drawn attention to the larger issue and hopefully generated the kind of enthusiasm in the community to oppose [fossil fuel projects] everywhere else in Australia, not just at the Adani mine.
The Guardian asked Adani Australia when it plans to export its first coal from the Carmichael mine and requested an interview with its managing director, Lucas Dow.
A spokesperson sent a brief statement, saying: “The Carmichael mine is on track to export coal in 2021.”