The Adani Group’s $16 billion investment in an Australian coal mine has come under attack from environmental group Greenpeace, which said the project was economically unviable and threatened the local ecosystem. Greenpeace on Monday said Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt has ignored expert advice before handing over access to precious water reserves and the Great Barrier Reef to the Adani Group. “The (Australian) Environment Minister has laid out the red carpet for a coal company with a shocking record to dig up the Outback, dump on the Great Barrier Reef and fuel climate change,” said Greenpeace Programme Director Ben Pearson.
Despite warnings from a government-appointed independent scientific committee about its impact on the water table–in addition to the threat to nationally listed threatened species–Hunt allowed the Adani Group to clear 20,000 hectares of bushland to build Carmichael Mine in Queensland.
Asked to comment on Greenpeace’s statement, the Adani Group declined on Monday. The group plans to invest $16 billion in a project that includes a coal mine, a railway line and a port. The Adanis are seeking equity partners for all three. The group has tied up with Posco of South Korea to lay the 388 km railway line. Posco will pick up equity in the rail project, which will help the Adanis to raise funds for the mine and the port.
Greenpeace said the Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank and HSBC had distanced themselves from Adani’s Australian venture citing environmental damage to the Great Barrier Reef.
The Adanis are not the only Indian business group facing the wrath of environmentalists. Essar’s Mahan coal mine in Madhya Pradesh is under attack from Greenpeace for damaging the environment and for not taking the consent of locals. Essar has sued Greenpeace in the Bombay High Court for defamation.
The Tatas faced opposition from environmentalists for their port in Odisha, which damaged the nesting grounds of turtles. The Vedanta Group drew flak for its plans to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills. The Vedanta project in Lanjigarh is operating at a quarter of its capacity because the locals are adamant over mining in the hills.
A report prepared by the Intelligence Bureau, which was leaked to the media, in June said Greenpeace and other NGOs were a threat to India’s economic security. The report alleged that Greenpeace had violated various provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, a charge the NGO denies.
But the Adanis are perhaps is the first Indian business house to face charges of environmental damage overseas. “The decision brings dredging and dumping in the Great Barrier Reef a step closer, as the Carmichael mine would require a coal export terminal at Abbot Point, for which dredging must occur. The dumping of this spoil in the world heritage area was cited by the Unesco as a reason why it continues to consider placing the reef on its World Heritage ‘in danger’ list,” said Pearson. “The Carmichael mine is set to be one of the largest coal mines in the world, and its environmental and climate footprint is immense,” he added.
“The most disturbing part is that the Australian government has entrusted our water, reef and climate to a company notorious for flouting the law. Coal giant Adani has been investigated and fined in India for bribery, illegal shipments, environmental destruction and building on village land without permission,” said Pearson.