Adani Activists Now Focusing on Waratah Coal’s New Galilee Basin Mine

Business / Friday, November 15th, 2019

The Galilee Basin in the north of Queensland, Australia, has been a top iron ore mining region for 40 years, but with concerns over climate change, underground water pollution and grazing land loss, combined with the disappointment with Adani’s jobs creation, green activists are now shifting their attention from Adani’s Carmichael mine to Waratah Coal’s new project – The Galilee Coal project (formerly China First).

Queensland’s Galilee Basin, an area of approximately 247,000 km2, has long been a mining hub; the Queensland government first realized its mining potential in 1981, and since then 48 mining projects were granted mining leases.

Iron ore is the region’s infamous bad boy. A quick look reveals 13 applications in 6 major mining sites, mostly operated by 3 mining companies; Indian Adani and Australian Waratah Coal and GVK Hancock.

Galilee Basin coal mining leases & mining applications, source: Wikipedia

Adani is the most recognizable of the three; it is the most advanced proposal, with construction at Carmichael finally having started late July 2019, after years of public outcry and investors’ concerns over its viability. At peak capacity, the mine would produce 60 million tonnes of coal a year, which are 2.3 billion tonnes over 60 years. However, as Adani CEO Gautam Adani admitted himself, the mine is expected to yield low-quality high-ash coal, and experts now predict the world will soon abandon coal in favour of renewable energy in light of the climate crisis.

Adani has lost 15% of its share value in 2019 after years of delays, but final environmental approval to begin work at Carmichael came in June 2019. This sparked protests by Australian green groups like Extinction Rebellion, Lock the Gate, StopAdani, Galilee Blockade, and others.

Activists aren’t just worried about the environment – they are also raising questions about Adani’s employment promises, which made many Queenslanders support the mine despite the dire environmental consequences. Throughout their bitter struggle to start construction at the Carmichael site, Adani have claimed that 10,000 jobs will be created for Australians in the region. However, since the mine’s final approval these estimates dropped to “1,500 direct and 6,750 indirect jobs”.

Others have even lower numbers in mind. “I think it’s great news they’ll be employing 1,500 through the construction phase and around about 100 in ongoing,” said Nationals MP, Bridget McKenzie, now the agriculture minister, revealing far less than the 10,000 jobs promised to the Australian public. Other estimates mention between 800 and 1,500 jobs based on mines of similar size in Queensland.

In October 2019 another mining project resurfaced; Clive Palmer announced that one of his entities, Waratah Coal, is reapplying for a mining lease for a project “4 times the size of Adani’s Carmichael”. The project, now called The Galilee Coal project (formerly China First) is now officially in its approval process. Waratah Coal is also seeking federal environmental approval for its proposed Alpha North coalmine in the Galilee Basin.

Activists are outraged, as most western countries are announcing plans to end coal; just this week it was reported that Britain pushes towards coal-free future as old power plants and that four in five EU coal plants are unprofitable. Other headlines read “Coal Is Dying Faster Than Anybody Expected”, “Trump’s push to save coal is failing. Coal demand to plunge” and “Replacing coal with gas or renewables saves billions”. Australia seems to be out of the loop.

There are other, local concerns as well.

“I’d imagine people will object to this. There will be water impacts, so I imagine there will be a lot of concerns,” said Lock the Gate coordinator Carmel Flint. The mine is also expected to destroy grazing land, which would harm landholders.

“We have been in drought out here for more than three years. Our groundwater is all we have to depend on,” said Nature Refuge co-owner Paola Cassoni. “We have no choice but to use all options open to us to protect this important pocket of country.”

Now that Adani has admitted only around 800 jobs will be created in its mine, many Queenslanders realize the government should shift its attention elsewhere – solar energy could be a good, renewable energetic solution which could create long lasting jobs. In Townsville, Queensland, a town which used to depend on Queensland’s ex-biggest employer Queensland Nickel (another Clive Palmer mining entity), a 4800-panel solar photovoltaic array is underway.

Green activists are now tasked with informing the public of the health hazards of coal mining and coal production, the impending climate catastrophe which scientists predict by 2030 and the looming employment crisis which could be created by taking a gamble on new coal mines. They have until December 2nd.

If green organizations are unsuccessful in shifting gears and also shifting their attention from Adani’s Carmichael to Waratah Coal’s new project, they could wake up to an environmental disaster in the Galilee Basin.


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