December 7, 2017 Read More →

Odds Are Against Completion of Australia Mega-Mine Project

The Guardian:

Adani’s operations in Australia appear to be hanging on by a thread, as activists prove effective at undermining the company’s chances of getting the finance it needs.

China seems to have ruled out funding for the mine, which means it’s not just Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine that is under threat, but also its existing Abbot Point coal terminal, which sits near Bowen, behind the Great Barrier Reef.

The campaign against the mine has been long. Environmentalists first tried to use Australia’s environmental laws to block it from going ahead, and then failing that, focused on pressuring financial institutions, first here, and then around the world.

The news that Beijing has left Adani out to dry comes as on-the-ground protests against construction of the mine pick up. Two Greens MPs, Jeremy Buckingham and Dawn Walker, have been arrested in Queensland for disrupting the company’s activities.

Is China’s move the end of the road for Adani’s mega coalmine in Australia, and will the Adani Group be left with billions of dollars in stranded assets?

One by one, each of the big four Australian banks ruled out financing the mine

But Australia’s environmental law leaves very little opportunity for challenging the merits of a minister’s decision – it only allows for challenges on whether those decisions considered everything required by the law. As a result, the minister needed only approve it again, after formally considering the impact on the two species.

Another court challenge argued the approval was invalid because the emissions caused by the mine – which would be greater than those of New York City – were a threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Hunt argued in court, successfully, that there was no definite link between coal from Adani mine and climate change.

It became apparent Australia’s environmental laws were unable to stop a project like this if the government of the day was determined to push it through.

Although further court challenges remained on the cards, they could only serve to delay the project. So activists changed tactics, aiming to undermine the company’s chances of securing finance for the mine and its associated infrastructure.

While threats to reputational damage were not effective against Adani Group, since it is family-owned, the same was not true of Australian banks, which were targeted heavily by activists.

And one by one, each of the big four Australian banks ruled out financing the mine.

By then Adani had seen the writing on the wall, and had shifted to seek finance from overseas institutions. It entered negotiations with the state-owned China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), which was thought to raise the potential of subsidised Chinese government loans.

The Australian government, which was seeking to give Adani its own subsidised loan, had supported the company’s efforts in China, according to a freedom of information request by the Australia Institute that reveals “several hundred pages” relating to formal representations to foreign financiers by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In a Senate estimates hearing, it was revealed that the minister for trade, Steve Ciobo, and the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, had written a letter to the Chinese government confirming the mine had received all necessary environmental approvals.

But even support from the highest levels of Australian government could not secure Chinese financing for the project – the activists won again.

In a letter to ACF’s Geoff Cousins, China’s Australian embassy said that Beijing had “taken note” of his concerns, and that while a Chinese entity had been negotiating with Adani, it had terminated the negotiation process “due to the absence of commercial feasibility”.

It also noted that “no Chinese banking institution has made any financing commitment to the project.”

“Approaching China would seem like the last roll of the dice so Carmichael is now looking even more like the definition of a stranded asset,” says Simon Nicholas, an analyst from the pro-renewables Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (Ieefa).

“Although there have been many twists and turns on Carmichael already, which makes it hard to predict,” Nicholas says. “Adani is faced with writing off their A$1.4bn investment if they can’t get the project going so they’ll continue to state that they are pursuing funding and make it sound like everything’s under control.”

Tim Buckley, also from Ieefa, says the news is a major blow to the Carmichael project, and will mean there is unlikely to be much movement from Adani until after the federal court hears a case brought by representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou, the traditional owners of the site of the mine.

More: Is this the end of the road for Adani’s Australian megamine?

 

 

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