Indian multinational conglomerate Adani has given the go-ahead for work to start on its huge, controversial Carmichael mine in Queensland's Galilee Basin. While the move is being called out as a stunt — with many questioning where the funding for the project is coming from — it still beggars belief that the project has got this far at a time when our focus should be on investing in renewables and keeping our mineral resources in the ground.
Energy minister Josh Frydenberg has gone ahead with its coal-fired plans for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), introducing legislation that would allow the taxpayer-funded CEFC to invest in carbon capture and storage.
The proposed scale of the Charmichael mine is staggering, but even more so at a time when we should be seriously considering decommissioning coal-fired power stations. Of course the coal extracted from the Charmichael mine — up to 60 million tonnes a year — is slated for export to India, rather than for burning in Australia, but that fact doesn't lessen its impact on Australia's environment. The coal mined at Charmichael would be responsible for releasing up to 120 million tonnes of CO2 a year if burned.
What's more, the mine is situated inland from the already-threatened Great Barrier Reef. Aside from the mine's potential contributions to carbon emissions, it'll also cause further environmental impact through its use of groundwater and creation of further pollutants.
The intense heatwave that ravaged eastern and central Australia last week wasn't just bad for our comfort and electricity bills — it's also a death sentence for the already beleaguered Great Barrier Reef.
Of course, despite Adani's announcement yesterday, the future of the mine is still uncertain. 19 banks have thus far refused to finance the project, often due to climate policies. The future market for coal exports is less sure these days — India, the target market for Carmichael's coal, has seen a new trend in renewable energy investment that may soon price out coal. The world's largest solar farm, at a whopping 1GW capacity, is currently being built in Kurnool, India.
While we can hope that market pressures will prevent the project — which Adani has already reportedly invested $3.3 billion in — from going ahead, it's still a poor reflection on the Australian government that the project ever got this far to begin with.