Carmichael Coal Project

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The Carmichael Coal Project (also known as the Adani mine), is a proposed coal mine, set for operation by Adani Mining, a subsidiary of the Adani Group, located 160 kilometres to the north-west of Clermont in the Galilee Basin of Central Queensland, Australia.

The Carmichael mine is the largest proposed project in the Galilee Basin, where eleven other mines are under consideration.[1][2] At its peak, it could produce 60 million tonnes of coal per year.[3]

The Carmichael mine, has been highly contentious, especially as of June 2019, when it appeared it would be the first coal mine to move ahead in the Galilee Basin, although the financing of the project remains uncertain.[4]

Location

160 km north west of Clermont in the Galilee Basin, Central Queensland

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Background

In November 2010 Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced that the Coordinator-General had declared the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project as a 'Significant Project'. Bligh stated that the cost of the project would be US$4.1 billion for the mines with an $6 billion rail infrastructure "leading to coal export terminals at Abbot Point, [[Hay Point [Coal Terminal]]] or both." She stated that the mine "could employ 4000 people during construction and a permanent operational workforce of up to 5000 employees." In addition, she stated, the railway could employ "approximately 2000 people during construction and an operational workforce of up to 120".[5]

In 2011, India power company Adani stated on its website that the Carmichael mine has an estimated 7.8 billion tonnes of coal resources and that a 60 million tonne a year project could have a mine life of a century. "The proposed mine involves the development of both a greenfield open-cut mine and an underground mine, supported by rail facilities leading to coal export terminals at either Abbot Point or Hay Point or both these ports. The mine has an expected life of more than 100 years. Export coal from the Project and will predominantly service the Indian domestic power market," the company states.[6]

In May 2014, Queensland’s Coordinator-General gave approval for the project to proceed.[7] 190 conditions were set by the state during both construction and operations phases of the mine with particular attention paid to groundwater and water bores which may be potentially affected.[7]

In July 2014, Australian Minister for Environment Greg Hunt approved the Carmichael coal mine and its associated rail link to the coast[8]; however, environmentalists have expressed strong opposition to Galilee Basin coal mining and development of a major coal port so close to the Great Barrier Reef and have launched petitions and legal proceedings to block Adani's plans.[9]

In early September 2014, the plan to dump dredge spoil on the Great Barrier Reef had been scrapped.[10][11] The proposal to dump the spoil at sea was widely rejected on the grounds that the fragile coral and seagrass ecosystem could be damaged. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority scientists had opposed the dumping plan.[11]

In January 2015, Australia Mining reported that Adani had awarded a US$2 billion contract to the Australian engineering company Downer EDI for development of Adani's Galilee Basin mines, with mine construction slated to start in 2015 and coal production expected to begin in 2017.[12]

The conditional $2.6 billion contract between Adani and Downer EDI was cancelled in December 2017 following a campaign against Downer EDI by activists against the mine.[13]

In July 2015 Adani dissolved the project management team before construction was set to begin, leading to speculation that the project may be cancelled. Adani said it remained committed to the mine and insisted the move, which leaves only a small legal and approvals team engaged in the project, was linked to the suspension of engineering contractors in June 2015. Managers of the Korean steelmaker Posco, who had been working on the project for a year out of Brisbane, returned to Korea.[14]

One lawsuit filed by the New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office, on behalf of the Mackay Conservation Group, argued that federal environment minister Greg Hunt failed to take into account the climate impact of greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of coal from the Carmichael mine when assessing whether to grant its license. Under the environmental assessment process, Hunt accounted for greenhouse gas emissions from extracting and transporting the coal, but not from burning it. Predictions suggest that this could produce an extra 130 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over the mine’s lifetime - a quarter of Australia’s annual emissions.[15] The case was won by Mackay Conservation Group, in August 2015. The Adani Carmichael coal mine was the re-approved at a Federal level, in October of that year, but subject to a further compliance conditions.[16]

In August 2015 a federal court overturned the Abbott government’s approval of the proposed mine, finding environment minister Greg Hunt ignored his own department’s advice about the mine’s impact on two vulnerable species, the yakka skink and the ornamental snake. As stated in the Guardian: "The decision leaves Adani, which is yet to secure sufficient financial backing for Carmichael and recently slashed its workforce on the project, without legal authority to begin construction."[17] Shortly after the federal court ruling, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia pulled out of its role as financial adviser to the project,[18] followed by Standard Chartered.[19]

However, in October 2015 the Australia government reissued the environmental permit for the coal and rail project, subject to 36 conditions including improving the habitat of the endangered Black Throated Finch (Poephila cincta), protecting groundwater, and providing A$1 million for conservation research.[20]

In February 2016 Adani was issued environmental authority for the Carmichael mine by the Australia Department of Environment and Heritage. Adani still needs to obtain significant bank funding, and must convince the Queensland government it has obtained “financial closure” before it will be allowed to begin dredging near Great Barrier Reef waters to expand the Abbot Point Coal Terminal. Adani also still has to obtain a mining lease from the Queensland government.[21]

Shortly after receiving environmental authority, a report by Axis Capital described Adani's investment in Carmichael as "dormant" and said no capital expenditure was expected in the mine until at least April 2016 (FY 2017). According to the report, Adani's management said "that further investments in its Australian coal mine project shall be dependent on visibility of revival in global coal prices."[22]

In April 2016, the Queensland government granted Adani rights to three mining leases covering an area estimated to contain 11 billion tonnes of thermal coal. Adani said a final investment decision would not be made until court challenges to the project were resolved, and it had secured the final approvals it needs.[23]

In August 2018 Australian court quashed a court case by the indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou Adani Enterprises from developing its controversial Carmichael coal mine. This cleared one of the final legal hurdles to its development.an [24]

In June 2019 Adani was successful in obtaining the final mining approval following the agreement of the Groundwater Management Plan.[25] The economic viability of the project, and the capacity to get adequate insurance cover are still hindering the company.[26]

In June 2020 Adani signed a AUS$350 million deal with Queensland construction consortium BMD to start work on the rail network, a critical piece of the project that will deliver coal from the Carmichael mine to the Port of Abbot Point for export. Adani said the construction contract, the largest it has signed for Carmichael, brought the total value of project-related contracts awarded to over AUS$1 billion.[27]

Strategic Significance

The Carmichael Mine is a pivotal project to open up the Galilee Basin that would have a combined export tonnage of 280 million tonnes of coal per annum, roughly equivalent to Indonesia’s annual coal exports. Activation of the Galilee Basin would more than double Australia’s coal exports from 300m tonnes per annum in 2010-2011 to broadly 600m tonnes per annum. There are 12 mines under consideration in the Galilee Basin.[28] According to a 2012 Greenpeace report, the nine coal mega-mines are proposed in the Basin then would have a combined peak production of 330 Mt per year, amounting to 705 Mt of CO2 per year.[29]

Companies Involved

The mine is owned by the Adani Group, India’s largest coal trader private thermal power producer, and port operator.[30]

The Adani Group is working hand in glove with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. Modi travels routinely in an Adani private jet and Gautam Adani regularly attends meetings with Modi and global political leaders, including China, America and Australia.[31] Modi is operating on an anti-corruption ticket. Adani is Modi’s biggest donor.[32]

Project Status

On the 13th June 2019 Adani was granted its final environmental approval, for the mine, following the acceptance of the groundwater management plan. Greens senator Larissa Waters said "They still don't have their pipeline approval, they still don't have their railway approval, they still have some federal plans that need approval."[33]

The company has already spent A$3.3bn on the project, including buying Abbot Point port in Queensland to ship coal from Australia to India, where the group owns a fleet of power stations.[34]

Opposition

Local: Sunrise, Indian CSO launching legal action against the mine under Australian law (facilitated by Earthjustice – confidential), range of Australian NGOs and very close connections to state, federal and international lawyers.

Indigenous: Wangan and Jagalingou People – applicants under Australian Native Title Act.

Organizational Opposition, includes Earthjustice, Sierra Club, International Coal Network, RBF, RFF, SeaChange, European Climate Foundation, GP, IEEFA.

CO2 Emissions

The Carmichael coal mine is planned to operate for 60 years and is predicted to emit more than 200 million tonnes of greenhouse gas throughout its lifetime. The project includes an open cut and underground coal mine and a 189 km rail link to transport the coal from the Galilee Basin to Abbot Point Coal Terminal, near the Great Barrier Reef.[15]

Annual CO2 emissions from this proposed project are estimated to be up to 120 million tonnes per annum.[30][34] The Adani mine alone will see up to 2.3 billion tonnes of coal extracted from an area five times the size of Sydney Harbour over 60 years. This is equivalent to putting out 7.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases.[35]

Other proposed mines in the Galilee Basin include Alpha Coal Project, Alpha North coal project, Alpha West coal project, China Stone project, Clyde Park coal project, Kevin's Corner Coal Project, South Galilee coal project, Galilee Coal Project, Pentland, Clyde Park coal project and Hughenden coal mine. Combined this represents a huge amount of potential CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Many of these projects plan to utilise Adani's infrastructure to export their coal through Abbot Point Coal Terminal.

Political Situation

Domestic energy prices have risen sharply while domestic oil production has dropped sharply.[36] In August 2018, facing a leadership challenge from members of his own party, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that he would abandoned the country's pledge to reduce emissions under the Paris Agreement, and that using energy policy to reduce emissions is "madness."[37] Facing a vote of no-confidence, Turnbull stepped down and was replaced by Scott Morrison, who pledged to focus on reducing energy prices rather than emissions.[38]

Australia government support

In November 2014, responding to falling coal prices and diminishing interest among other potential developers, Queensland's state government offered to contribute an unspecified amount ("hundreds of millions, but not billions" of dollars) in incentives towards construction of the proposed $2.2 billion rail line between Galilee and Abbot Point.[39] Shortly after, Korean steelmaker Posco began talks with Adani about taking equity stakes in the mine and rail link, and attracting US$1 billion in funding from Korean banks.[14]. Posco has since pulled out.[40]

In June 2015 documents released under Queensland's freedom-of-information laws showed officials at the highest level of the Queensland Treasury held grave doubts about the financial viability of the project, even as former premier Campbell Newman was promising taxpayer funds to help establish the mine. Former treasurer Mark Gray and principal commercial analyst Jason Wishart expressed fears about Adani's high level of debt and identified the mining giant as a "risk" because of its unclear corporate structure and use of offshore entities.[41]

International Dynamics

Public-interest litigation has been filed in Delhi’s top court asking for a special investigation into claims the Adani Group and other energy companies inflated coal and equipment prices to siphon money from India. In August 2017 The Guardian revealed details of a massive fraud investigation into the Adani Group, an Indian conglomerate preparing to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in Australia.[42] Adani was found not guilty.[43]

Financing

The total cost of the project is an estimated $16.5 billion.[44]Adani is not an existing coal mine operator, and would derive various benefits from the Carmichael, such as enhancing its existing supply chain and vertical integration sustained by political connections in India.

In November 2014, Adani signed a memorandum of understanding with the State Bank of India for a loan of up to US$1 billion to help finance the Carmichael project.[45] In March 2015 it was reported that the State Bank of India (SBI) was preparing to turn down the US$1 billion loan request from Adani, as the project was looking risky and unprofitable,[46] although SBI chief Arundhati Bhattacharya dismissed the news as "gossip."[47]

According to Greenpeace, a June 2015 court case in Queensland revealed that Standard Chartered of UK had previously provided a loan of US$680 million to the Carmichael Mine and Rail Project. While the bank disputes this, Standard Chartered has not publicly explained where that money has come from.[48]

As of June 2015, a total of 11 international banks have publicly distanced themselves from the Galilee Basin coal projects and its financing, including HSBC, Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Citi.[49]

The estimated cost of the Carmichael mine is US$4 billion, plus US$2 billion for the rail line and US$1 billion for expansion of Abbot Point Coal Terminal. As of 2015 Adani has already spent US$1.3 billion on the project and is seeking US$4 billion in debt. Over its 60-year mine life the investment from Adani will be US$16.5 billion.[50]

In July 2018 Adani announced that it is still seeking financing to build the rail line that will connect to the mine. Some analysts note that billionaire Adani has the ability to fund the project himself, if other financing is unavailable.[51]

A February 2017 report by 350.org found that Australian fossil fuel companies had received $2,000 in subsidies for every $1 contributed to Australian political parties and candidates. The report looked at donations declared to the Australian Electoral Commission since the last federal election, which amounted to $3.69m. It then calculated the combined value of four tax rebates and credits that would be used by the fossil-fuel industry in the 2016-2017 financial year, which it estimated would amount to $7.7bn.[52]

In December 2017, four major Chinese banks ruled out financing the Carmichael project in quick order, a highly significant moment due to the fact that the banks are lenders to China Machinery Engineering Corporation, the company which Adani had been negotiating with to become part of the coal mine and rail project.[53]

In November 2018, Adani bowed to the inevitable and announced that the Carmichael mine and rail project will be 100% financed through the Adani Group’s own resources.[54]

As of June 2020, 37 banks have ruled out lending to the Adani Carmichael project and the #StopAdani campaign has been able to prevent the Australian government handing over taxpayer funds, which has left Adani still looking for the funding it needs to build the coal mine and rail line. Sixteen global insurers, including some major players in the resources and energy sectors, have also been persuaded to publicly rule out insuring any part of the Adani Carmichael project.[55]

On June 11, 2020, The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that four global insurers – Liberty International Underwriters, HDI, XL Australia and Aspen Re – had agreed in late 2019/early 2020 to underwrite work on the Adani coal mine despite local financial institutions shunning the project due to concerns about climate change.[56] Reacting to this news, campaigners vowed to ramp up pressure on the insurers behind the Adani coal mine. "For Liberty, HDI, Aspen and Marsh to do their dirty deals with Adani just as Australia's worst ever bushfire season was escalating adds insult to injury”, said Pablo Brait of Australian campaign group Market Forces. “The reputations of these companies are now seriously damaged, and that damage will be irreparable if they stick with the climate-wrecking Carmichael project." Within twenty four hours of the naming of the four insurance companies in The Sydney Morning Herald, AXA XL, Liberty Mutual and HDI confirmed to The Guardian that they will not have any further involvement in the project after previously providing insurance cover which has now expired. A spokesperson for the other insurer outed as a backer of the project, Aspen Re, said the company could not discuss individual policies, adding: “We are currently reviewing our underwriting appetite around fossil fuel but cannot comment further at this time.”[57]

Despite the wide array of international banks which have chosen not to involve themselves in financing for the Carmichael project, in July 2020 Market Forces identified Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered, Barclays and JPMorgan Chase as potential 'unintentional' backers of the project due to the fact that the banks are co-organising a pending US$1.25 billion bond issue for an Adani Group company, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ). The Adani Group, like many major corporations, is adept at shuffling capital newly raised by one of its companies across its business. According to Market Forces there are three plausible ways in which this new APSEZ bond issue may end up providing capital for Adani's coal expansion plans in Australia:

  1. Part of the funds from the bond issue could be directly used to refinance Adani Abbot Point Terminal (AAPT) debt due to APSEZ retaining a small stake in AAPT;
  2. Adani shifting some bond issue funds between companies so that they end up funding Carmichael and/or AAPT; and
  3. The funds from the bond issue free up untied funds elsewhere which Adani then shifts to Australia to fund Carmichael and/or AAPT.[58]

Questions over company ownership

In 2015 Fairfax Media reported that Adani was operating a complex web of companies associated with the Carmichael mine and Abbot Point port out of tax havens, including the Cayman Islands. The company documents suggest that many of the companies associated with the Carmichael mine and infrastructure development are not controlled by the head of Adani, Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, but instead by his brother, Vinod Shantilal Adani. Vinod has been named in an Indian criminal investigation into the alleged siphoning of $1 billion from Indian shareholders. Company documents also revealed that Adani sold its stake in the Abbot Point port -- through which the Carmichael coal would be exported -- in 2013 to a Singaporean company in which Vinod was the sole director, however this was not made known to Australian authorities or the Bombay stock exchange. Adani was also found to still control a number of Australian companies linked to its Carmichael coal project in the Galilee Basin, despite excluding these companies from its 2013-14 accounts.[59]

Operations

The mine is planned to contain six open-cut pits and five underground mines.[60]

Operation at the mine are expected to consume 12 billion liters of water each year.[61] According to the mine’s environmental impact statement it will produce 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the expected 60-year life of the mine,[62] including gases produced during the mining process and from emissions created from the mining and transportation of the coal.[62]

Infrastructure

Rail line and port

The Carmichael mine is remote. To transport the coal to its port on the coast, Adani propose to build the North Galilee Basin Rail Project.

A new railway line is planned to transport coal to port facilities at Abbot Point Coal Terminal. As of September 2019 the permissions needed to construct the railway have not been granted, nor has funding been secured. The line will join the existing Aurizon’s Newlands rail line.[63] Adani partnered with the Korean construction group Posco to build the rail link, aided by a reported US$450 million in state government subsidies. Posco pulled out in 2015 taking the Korean financing with them.[40] Adani plans to expand capacity at the Abbot coal terminal by 70 million tonnes.[64] Some of the other coal mines proposed for the Galilee Basin plan to use Adani's rail infrastructure to export the coal from Abbot Point.[65]

In September 2020, it was revealed in Australian media that Adani has set up its own rail company — Bowen Rail Company (BRC) — to haul coal from the proposed Carmichael mine to its Abbot Point terminal in north Queensland. The move follows rail haulage operators in Australia either snubbing Adani or coming under heavy activist and shareholder pressure not to enter into contracts with Adani. According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the decision will drastically increase Adani's capital costs, adding AUS$200 million in upfront capital costs — the purchase of locomotives and coal wagons — for the 10MT phase one operations, and rise to AU$500 million in the mine's second phase of 27MT a year. The establishment of BRC appears to have happened in clandestine fashion, with no mention of 'Adani' or 'Carmichael' on the new company’s website and media communications. The ABC reported that company searches show BRC is owned by an Adani group company in India, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited, via two holding companies in Singapore. Although in recent years many major banks and investors have refused to financially support the Carmichael and Abbot Point projects, they continue to provide financing to Adani Ports. According to Market Forces: "The Bowen Rail Company connection to Adani Ports is the smoking gun, which should leave no doubt these banks must immediately cut all ties with the company."[66][67]

Coal plant

Australian firm RCR Tomlinson has established the subsidiary Moray Power to develop the 150 MW Moray power station in the Galilee Basin of Central Queensland. The power station would provide energy for the Carmichael Coal Project.[68]

Queensland Access Road

In June 2018 the Queensland government announced that it was considering fronting the $100 million cost of an access road to the Adani mine. Mine opponents argued that Adani has already broken previous promises to help maintain local infrastructure needed for the mine's operation.[69]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: Adani Australia[70]
  • Parent Company: Adani Group
  • Location: 160 km north west of Clermont in the Galilee Basin, Central Queensland[71]
  • GPS Coordinates: -22.073611, 146.329722 (approximate)
  • Status: Development[72]
  • Production Capacity: 10 Mt/year[70] to extend to 28Mt/ year[73] or 60Mt/year[74]
  • Total Resource: 10.15 Giga tonnes (Gt)[75]
  • Minable Reserves: 1.16 Gt of measured resources, 3.24 Gt of indicated resources, and 5.74 Gt of inferred resources[75]
  • Coal type: Thermal[28] for export
  • Mine Size: 27,892 hectares[28]20km across by 30km North to south, divided into 4km squared pits
  • Mine Type: Underground (longwall mining) and surface mining[28]
  • Start Year:
  • Source of Financing: Self-funded[75]

Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation Project website

Website: https://www.adaniaustralia.com/projects-businesses/mine

Articles and resources

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