Adani may abandon Australian coal mine project citing delays: report

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Mumbai: Indian infrastructure conglomerate Adani Group may withdraw from the proposed $16 billion mining project in the Galilee basin of Queensland citing delays caused by environmental activists in the courts for the project.

The Australian on Saturday reported that the company’s founder and chairman, Gautam Adani, had told the newspaper that the he was disappointed the “pit to plug’’ project had yet to receive the green light after six years of environmental assessments and court battles.

In his first interview with the Australian media, Adani hoped the court challenges to Australia’s largest proposed coalmine would be finalised early next year.

“You can’t continue just holding. I have been really disappointed that things have got too delayed,’’ billionaire Adani told The Australian.

The Adani Group initiated the Carmichael coal project in 2010 with plans to develop a coal mine and a rail link with Abbot Point port, but the project soon ran into opposition from environmentalists.

Adani Enterprises Ltd on 3 April won mining leases for its Carmichael coal project in Australia, moving a step closer to starting work at the controversial mine. Adani secured three leases from the Queensland state government for the coal project, which would be the largest in Australia.

In February, the Adani Group secured the approval of the Queensland government for the Carmichael mine project in the state’s Galilee Basin, amid protests from environmental activists in Australia.

In December, Australia allowed expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal in Queensland, which will enable shipping of the fuel from mines in the Galilee Basin, including Adani Group’s Carmichael mine.

The expansion, which will see 1.1 million cubic metres of material dredged near the Great Barrier Reef, was granted approval with 29 riders. The approval followed an Australian court spiking a green group’s attempt to block the Carmichael project, and recommending mining leases in October.

Currently, Australia’s Federal Court is hearing the case of the lawfulness of its federal environment minister Greg Hunt’s approval of the controversial $12 billion Carmichael coal mine project of Indian infrastructure conglomerate Adani Group.

Adani confirmed to The Australian that he had met the Prime Minister last December to implore him to deliver greater certainty on projects like his proposed Carmichael mine.

“We were suggesting how to bring in the certainty of the timings,’’ he said. “We were asking how we get certainty of the time schedules … that is the most important for us in committing all of our resources,” Adani was quoted as saying.

Adani said he originally believed the approvals process would take two to three years while he has already spent $3 billion buying the tenements and the Abbot Point port lease.

Adani told the newspaper that if there were no more unexpected delays he had confidence the project would get financing and “still be competitive’’ against other alternative sources of coal in India and Indonesia.

Adani Australia chief executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj said the co-ordinated campaign by anti-coal activists to block the mine had damaged Australia’s international reputation. He told The Australian that the business community in India — where growth outstripped that of China last year — had expressed concern about future investment in Australia. “I think it has already turned off a lot of switches. I am not saying it is going to be permanent, but there has been damage,’’ Janakaraj said.

On Friday, greengroup Greenpeace welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s commitment that he will not waste taxpayer money on the Carmichael coal mine and challenges the prime minister to unveil a real environmental policy to tackle climate change and protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific reef campaigner Shani Tager said: “While this off-the-cuff comment is welcome, the prime minister still needs to announce a credible environmental policy to protect the reef from the dangers of coal for future generations.”

“The Carmichael mine would mean more dredging in the Great Barrier Reef, more ships through its waters and more carbon emissions at a time when the reef is suffering from its worst ever bleaching,” Tager said.