As the world watches, Australia burns… coal
March 01, 2020 by Extinction Rebellion
In June last year Australia gave final approval for the Adani Carmichael coal mine. It will be the largest coal mine in the country and one of the biggest in the world, producing 2.3 billion tonnes of coal over its lifetime and 130 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
The Carmichael mine is controlled by the Adani Group, an Indian corporate behemoth headed by billionaire Gautam Adani. The group has spent vast amounts promoting the benefits of coal mining to rural Queenslanders.
Adani is the most controversial energy project in Australian history. The mine is located in the Galilee Basin, an unspoiled area in Northern Queensland that is thought to contain seams of coal. Part of the Adani project is a new coal terminal on the Queensland coast, which is at the edge of the Barrier Reef.
From here coal will be transported 185 miles to the coast on a newly-built railway where it will be shipped across the Great Barrier Reef to Adani’s power stations in India, a country that is already under water stress and has been struggling to transition to clean energy. The electricity generated will then be sold to Bangladesh, cementing reliance on coal in these countries – home to a quarter of the planet’s population – for decades to come.
Adani is the first of 9 proposed coal mines in the region and speculators are watching it closely. If all 9 go into production, Australia’s coal output could reach 320 million tonnes a year, which would produce an additional 705 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually – 1.3 times the current output of Australia.
Politicians are determined to give Adani the go-ahead despite the fact that the mine doesn’t add up financially. The price of coal has slumped dramatically in the last few years, therefore in order to keep Adani viable it will receive $900 million in royalty deferrals, and $4.4 billion in tax exemptions. Although coal accounts for almost fifteen per cent of Australia’s exports, it contributes less than 1 percent of the government’s total revenue.
Siemens, the multinational company based in Munich, Germany, is facing a backlash from climate campaigners and investors for its stake in the Adani coal project. Activists in Munich glued themselves to the headquarters of Siemens, while protestors in the UK turned Siemens’ London offices into a mock crime scene.
In Australian politics, the fossil fuel industry wields power over politicians and voters; for example the Australian mining industry has poured an estimated half a billion into lobby groups over the last decade. Queensland’s Labor Premier had a close victory in the last election, in the face of strong support for the right- wing coalition government.
While Indigenous land disputes, environmental challenges, and global pressure on companies to distance themselves from the project will continue to delay Adani for years, it offers a striking example of the determination of the fossil fuel industry to hang onto power.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society has called the approval of the mine ‘bad news’ for the Barrier Reef.