The Adani group in Australia : a relationship full of conflict

TRANSLATED BY RHONA KAPPLER AND PROOFREAD BY LUCY HARRIES

On 6th June 2017, the President of the multinational company Adani announced “the official launch” of the construction of the Carmichael coalmine. The mine would be situated near the Great Barrier Reef and would be one of the biggest in the world. This project has been the subject of much debate, and several protests have taken place since initial talks in 2010. The result of these on-going negotiations remains uncertain.

Behind the scenes of the Adani group

The Adani group is one of the Indian multinationals founded by Gautam Adani, including Lakshmi Mittal. Although it is infamous for having made 629 employees redundant in Florange, it has also come under fire due to environmental concerns. It should also be noted that its Indian counterpart also has little respect for the environment. In addition to this, the company has also been involved in money laundering and corruption scandals. Australian news channel ABC carried out a documentary exposing the poor practices of the company, such as the illegal iron mining of 2010 in the Indian village of Belekeri.

Is less coral and more carbon the future?

The outrage provoked by the Carmichael mine project is mainly in response to the devastating consequences it has on the environment. The main concern is the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef, which has already suffered severe deterioration. During the past several years, the development of this project has been a cause for concern among communities in Australia and worldwide. The Adani project will not only entail dredging up to 1.1 million square metres of the ocean floor but will also produce 4.7 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, a result of the mining and combustion of coal. Additionally, it is estimated that the Carmichael mine could consume 26 million litres of fresh water from the Great Artesian Basin, an essential natural resource for the whole country, already threatened by worsening droughts. Locally, the inhabitants of the region are standing up to this unwanted change.

Aboriginal communities make their voices heard

The traditional owners of the land on which the new mine is expected to be situated are the Wangan and Jagalingou people, who are Australian aboriginal groups. In 2004, these communities lodged a Native Title Claim on part of the land. As a result of this, the Adani group must reach an agreement with the Aboriginal people on land use before proceeding with the project. Since 2012, Adani has attempted several times to negotiate with the Wangan and Jagalingou people, but to no avail. According to the latter, the coalmine would disrespect their traditions, destroying their culture and heritage.

More jobs, but at what cost?

In order to promote the project, Adani announced that 10,000 jobs would be created. This is indeed a great help for Queensland, as the state holds the highest unemployment rates in the country. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also used this argument to justify his support for the project. However, Jerome Fahrer, an economist acting as spokesperson for the Adani group, declared in the Land Court of Queensland in 2015 that the net number of jobs created would be 1,464. On top of the 22 billion Australian dollars set aside for this project, Adani expects to receive a billion-dollar loan from the Australian government. On 6th October 2017, chief executive of Adani Australia Jeyakumar Janakaraj admitted in a press release that the group needed 4.2 billion dollars more to finance the project.

Ready to “stand in front of the bulldozers”

In order for the project to go ahead, Adani must reach an agreement with the Wangan and Jagalingou people. A federal court case will go ahead in March 2018. In the meantime, the head of the Australian Greens, Richard Di Natale, trusts in the power of the people to defend the environment. According to Di Natale, activists are ready to “stand in front of the bulldozers” if parliament fails to act. The biggest demonstration against the Carmichael mine took place on 7th October 2017, bringing together around 16,000 people from all parts of the country. According to a recent survey, a quarter of the population were in favour of the project, which is an encouragingly small percentage. But will the actions of the people be enough to prevent an environmental and humanitarian disaster?

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