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HomeWorldLet The Vandalism Begin: Adani Strikes Coal

Let The Vandalism Begin: Adani Strikes Coal


He began on RN
Breakfast
by claiming that he, and his company, would be
open and transparent about mining operations. But Lucas Dow,
chief executive of Adani’s Australian operations, soon
revealed in his June 25 interview that his understanding of
transparency was rather far from the dictionary version.
When asked how the Carmichael Coal Mine was getting its
water, he claimed that these were from “legally regulated
sources” and in commercial confidence. Businesses work
like that, he stated forcefully, preferring to praise the
company for it – and here, he meant no irony – its sound
ecological credentials in solar energy and
renewables.

The interview set the background for
another sad chapter in the continued environmental renting
of Australia. The company had found its first coal seam in
Queensland’s Galilee Basin. As the ABC reported,
it meant “the extraction of thermal coal at the
44,700-hectare site can begin.” The head of the Indian
Adani Group, billionaire Gautam Adani, was celebrating his
59th birthday. “There couldn’t be a better birthday gift
than being able to strengthen our nation’s energy security
and provide affordable power to India’s millions,” tweeted
the delighted chairman.

Even as oil and gas giants face
court decisions and shareholder insurgencies
about not
having sufficient, tenably projected plans to reduce
emissions, Adani remains antiquated in its stubbornness. Its
vandalising behaviour flies in the face of even such
conservative, pro-fossil fuel defenders such as the
International Energy Agency. In its May report,
the IEA noted, keeping in mind the target of a net zero
emissions world by 2050, that more simply had to be done.
Certainly, it argued, more could be done to meet 2030
targets. “Mandates and standards are vital to drive
consumer spending and industry investment into the most
efficient technologies. Targets and competitive auctions can
enable wind and solar to accelerate the electricity sector
transition. Fossil fuel subsidy phase-outs, carbon pricing
and other market reforms can ensure appropriate price
signals.”

Such observations are distant siren calls
for the Indian giant, whose Australian branch, swaddled in
controversy, has gone for a rebrand. Well as it might.
Adani’s Carmichael Coal project, originally proposed in
2010 by the Adani Group, has catalysed the largest
environmental protest movement
since the Franklin
campaign of the 1980s.

Having no doubt hired a goodly
number of public relations consultants, the company’s
rebadging as Bravus Mining and Resources suggests a stealthy
deception. And it was as Bravus that success was
announced
: “We have struck coal at Carmichael,” came
the headline in a June 24 company release.

The company
CEO David Boshoff treated it as a matter of success in the
face of opposition. “We have faced many hurdles along the
way, but thanks to the hard work and perseverance of our
team, we have now reached the coal seams.” The CEO would
even have you believe that Bravus was playing a humble
servant to many noble causes. “The coal will be sold at
index pricing and we will not be engaging in transfer
pricing practices, which means that all our taxes and
royalties will be paid here in Australia. India gets the
energy they need and Australia gets the jobs and economic
benefits in the process.”

Boshoff is optimistic that
Bravus will be able to export its first coal shipments in
2021. “We’re on track to export [the] first coal this
year, and despite reaching this significant milestone, we
will not take our eyes off our larger goal of getting coal
to the market.” But do not worry, insists Bravus and the
Adani Group: we have green credentials as well. Adani Green
Energy Ltd (again, the PR consultants really have been
working hard) had acquired SB Energy Holdings, which would
see the company “achieve a total renewal energy capacity
of 24.3GW.” What the Carmichael coal project did was
contribute to a “burgeoning energy portfolio designed to
create a sustainable energy mix” of thermal power, solar
power, wind power and gas.

There were a few glaring
omissions of detail from the fanfare, both in Dow’s
interview and the company announcement. First came that
pressing issue of water, one of its most scandalous features
given the preciousness of that commodity on a water starved
continent. The Queensland regulator notes that Adani has but
one viable source
, what is described as “associated”
groundwater, drawn from the Carmichael site itself.

In
May, the company’s North Galilee Water Scheme fell
foul
in the Federal Court, scuttling a pipeline project
that would have supplied in the order of 12.5 billion litres
a year from Queensland’s Sutton River. The Court agreed
with the Australian Conservation Foundation that the federal
government had erred in law when the Environment Minister
failed to apply the “water trigger” in assessing the
Scheme. The quashing of the plan led the ACF’s Chief
Executive Officer Kelly O’Shanassy to
conclude
that, “Without the North Galilee Water
Scheme, it’s hard to see how Adani has enough water to
operate its mine.”

On water, as with much else,
Bravus has adopted a policy of dissembling. In
correspondence between an employee and Dow regarding a query
by Guardian Australia on available aqueous sources,
it was suggested
“we do not give [the paper] anything more than what is
already on the public record from us. They are clearly
struggling to work out where we are getting our water, so I
don’t think we give them any further clarity.” Dow
approved of the measure.

There was also an absence of
detail on the issue of the rail line, which is intended to
link the mine to the Abbot Point coal terminal. Boshoff
might well be confident about coal shipments this year, but
the line is not, as yet, finished. That aspect of the
project has also faced its share of problems, being accused
of having a less than adequate approach to minimising
erosion. The Queensland state government, after
investigating those claims, found in favour of Adani, though
it recommended
that “construction activities within
waterways should not be undertaken during the wet
season”.

The Friday interview with Dow was also
marked by the usual numbing apologetics and justifications
long deployed by the fossil fuel lobby. If we don’t do it,
others will. If we do not dig and exploit the deposits,
Australians will miss out. Families will suffer. Coal
remained a king with a firmly fastened crown, left
un-threatened for decades. Precisely such a frame of mind is
firmly fastened to the raft of dangerous unreality, and it
is one that is sinking.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a
Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He
lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:
bkampmark@gmail.com

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