Plan for Australia’s biggest coal mine has problems

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Plan for Australia’s biggest coal mine has problems


The Great Barrier Reef and the climate are at risk. Tom Anderson and Eliza Egret explain why this mega mine is important for all of us to think about.

Australia is already the world’s biggest exporter of coal. Now the Queensland Government has plans that will double its output. It plans to start mining in the remote Galilee Basin.

The Carmichael mine planned for north Queensland will be the country’s largest, and one of the biggest in the world.

If the plan goes ahead, the mine will release about 4.64 gigatonnes of CO2 over 60 years, and mine up to 60 million tonnes of coal per year.

At least eight more mines in the Galilee Basin may follow, which could double Australia’s exports of coal.

Adani, the Indian company with the plan, wants to export most of the coal back to India with a specially built railway from the Galilee Basin to Abbot Point coal port on the Great Barrier Reef. There would be hundreds more coal ships in the Reef’s waters. And they would dredge more than a million cubic metres of seafloor to make the port bigger. This would damage the ocean ecosystem.

Australian protesters want a campaign against the mine - ‘the fight of our times’.

Greenpeace say that the plan for nine mines in the Galilee Basin is one of 14 global plans. It would start a ‘carbon bomb’, and increase greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 20 per cent and cause a 5-6°C rise in global temperatures.

Adani’s coalmine will lead to more extreme weather and accelerate the warming of the world’s oceans and the destruction of its coral reefs,’ said Imogen Zethoven of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. ‘A quarter of the world’s ocean life depends on coral reefs and 500 million people depend on coral reefs for their jobs.’ The mining project may also mean we lose many kinds of birds.

But Adani will receive strong financial support from the government in Australia. They will not ask Adani to pay for the billions of litres of water the mine will use each year. Adani is also talking to the government about A$1 billion dollars’ ($780 million) of loans.

Many Australians are asking why their government is supporting a billionaire, Gautam S Adani, who is involved in many corruption scandals.

The plan may also affect the price of coal. Globally, the price of coal is dropping and financial analyst Tim Buckley says, ‘in a market where demand for seaborne coal is dropping, to add more coal will make the price of coal drop faster’.

One possible result is that governments may want to invest in coal and not renewable energy. And the Adani mine is ignoring science: global energy consumption must decrease to stop very serious climate change.

Sacred land at risk

Australian law says a limited number of First Nations people can negotiate new plans like mines on their land. But talks about the Adani plan clearly show how this process is used to help mining companies.

‘Most people didn’t get the right information to make a decision,’ says Ken Peters-Dodd, a leader of the Birriah people in northeast Queensland, which is on the route of the planned coal railway line.

‘A small number of people only wanted to make money and they influenced the meetings to help the mining company. The company themselves gave the expert advice. Our family walked out in disgust.

‘The Adani project will affect the environment, our culture, and our rights as caretakers of our country for years to come,’ says Ken.

‘Adani is destroying everything that’s spiritual to us,’ adds Carol Prior, a leader of the Juru people, whose land will be for the port and railway for the mine. Carol was part of the negotiating process with Adani, but after she talked about some of the problems the group voted her off. She talked about the problems of her people’s culture, burial grounds, ancient rock art and ochre grounds.

‘Our rock art is as if our ancestors wrote a letter and left it there for us,’ she says. ‘It tells us: “This is where you come from and this is where your spiritual connection is. This is your country”.’

Carol and Ken with other First Nations people, are leading the protest against Adani. Ken says they are working to show that the mine does not have the support of Aboriginal people’.

In June, the Federal Parliament made a change to Native Title law. It allows Adani, and other companies, to go ahead with a majority of those involved in negotiations and not an agreement with them. First Nations people are protesting strongly about this in Australia.

‘When they changed the Native Title law, they made the chains stronger,’ says Carol. ‘Slavery is still there.’

Legally, Adani’s mine should not go ahead until another court challenge by the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

Call for help

Ken believes international support is important for the protest. ‘We ask people from around the world to support us. We need to work together and plan for the future,’ he says.

Protesters against the Adani mine have already persuaded the major Australian banks – and many international financial institutions – not to help with finance for the plan.

Adani will need the support of financiers, lawyers, insurers, and engineering and construction companies. Many of these are international, so popular movements all over the world will be important to persuade these companies not to support the planned mine.

Ken also sees the protest as important for the rights of First Nations peoples globally. If the mine goes ahead after the protests from the indigenous owners of the land, ‘it will mean the future rights of all First Nations people will be weaker’.

Tom Anderson and Eliza Egret are part of Shoal Collective, a new co-operative of writers and researchers writing for social justice and a world beyond capitalism.


(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).