A summary of Adani coal mine case

In 2010, Adani Private Ltd. a subsidiary of the Indian company Adani Group proposed the Carmichael mine. The proposed coal mine would have been one of the largest coal mines in the world. The proposed coal mines were objected by people for ethical and environmental concerns. Since the project has been proposed it has been a subject of many lawsuits and protests which has been elaborated in the article. Amidst the lawsuits changes in the global scenario have also caused its economic viability to reduce raising concerns about the project’s future.

Environmental Concerns

The Adani coal mine would cause a lot of damage to the already ailing environment. It would lead to water drainage and carbon emissions.

Water vows

The coal mines would put exorbitant pressure on Queensland water, a place frequented by draughts. It was estimated that during its lifetime, the mine would require at least 270 billion liters of groundwater. Even after the resources of the mine are exhausted, 6 unfilled coal pits that will drain millions of liters of groundwater forever. There is also a high probability of damaging the aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin which was the main source of water for rural Queensland. Even the Doongmabulla and Mellaluka ancient springs – 160 wetlands that provide permanent water during drought face an 80% chance of draining out. The Doongmabulla springs are also one of the last pristine desert oases in the world and the most important cultural site for the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners.

A summary of Adani coal mine case

Carbon emissions

Coal is the biggest driver of global warming. Mining, burning and exporting coal is the key contribution Australia makes to the climate crisis. Coal is also a health hazard: it pollutes our air and kills workers and local communities. Adani’s coal, once burnt, will create up to 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon pollution. The burning of coal and opening coal mine undermines the global movement for reducing carbon reductions. Opening of the coal mines would be a step back for Australia and India when the developed nations of the world are increasingly investing and shifting to renewable and non-polluting sources of energy.

The Adani Coal mine is also likely to create a chain reaction if it starts its operation. The coal mines which is located in the Galilee Basin is one of the largest untapped coal reserves on Earth. Adani coal mines could pave for the other coal reserves located in the region to be excavated. This would lead to more pollution and carbon emission.

Damage to Australia’s coral reefs

In continuation of the previous point, the carbon emissions will increase the earth’s temperature. The increase in temperature will damage the coral reefs. Scientists warn that 1.5°C of global warming will destroy at least 70% of the world’s coral reefs. 2°C of global warming will kill off 99%.

A summary of Adani coal mine case

Ethical concerns

Since the consequences of operating a coal mine could be detrimental to the environment, it is important to regulate it and have accountable people run the organization. The Adani Group during its short stint in Australia has already violated a few laws. A few instances are listed below:

  • Breached a pollution license by 800%, allowing polluted, coal-laden water to spew out of its Abbot Point coal terminal and into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
  • Caught red-handed illegally starting work at the Carmichael mine site. They further lied to the Queensland Government about the same. Adani illegally cleared swathes of vegetation and drilled bores into aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin — putting groundwater at risk.
  • The found them guilty of exaggerating the benefits of their coal project, admitting it would create 1464 jobs, not the 10,000 promised and $4.8 billion not $22 billion in royalties.

The violation of laws by Adani Group is not unique to Australia. The CEO managing the Adani Group in the past has been pleaded guilty of allowing a flood of toxic pollutants to flow into a major river, poisoning local water sources and killing crops in Zambia. Multiple reports suggest Adani Group of using tax havens in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere.

In their home country, the Adani Group has been found guilty on grounds of financial fraud and violation of environmental laws.

Instances of Adani Group violating laws in India

  • In August 2016, the National Green Tribunal fined Adani nearly five crore Rupees for its role in chartering an unseaworthy ship to transport coal. The tribunal found that the ship had sunk, spilling oil and over 60,000 tons of coal that destroyed mangroves and polluted beaches. The tribunal criticized the failure to clean up the spill for more than five years. 
  • In January 2016, the National Green Tribunal fined Adani Hazira Port Private Ltd. almost 25 crore Rupees for undertaking development works at its port in Hajira, without an environmental permit. The tribunal found that these works destroyed mangroves and impeded the fishing activities of local communities by interfering with their access to the river and ocean. They were criticized for having an “irresponsible attitude” and for failing to care about any “adverse impact of its development on the environment.” 
  • The Adani Group’s development of a huge port and one of the world’s largest coal‐fired power plants has caused significant harm to the environment and local communities, resulting from numerous failures to comply with regulations and permits.
  • In 2011, after a three‐year investigation, the ombudsman of Karnataka found them to have been actively involved in the large‐scale illegal of iron ore. The ombudsman recommended that AEL should be stripped of its rights to operate the port and banned from further business dealings with the government.

Given their track record, Adani Group is likely to do the same in Australia. Manipulations and violations would lead to greater harm than anticipated. Many fear that the company would not give a true picture and resort to data manipulation.

A summary of Adani coal mine case

India’s role in the Adani case

The coal which will be extracted in Australia will be used for Adani’s thermal power plants in India. Large parts of India still don’t have access to electricity, the group claimed that through their operations they would uplift the lives of many Indians by providing electricity. Thus, justifying the harm to the environment.

However, since the main goal for excavation is to meet the energy demands of India, the change in India’s mindset impacted the valuation of the project. During the period between 2010 and 2016, the demand for coal decreased worldwide amidst global pressure for reducing carbon emissions. India also followed suit with Piyush Goyal, the then Union minister for power, coal, new and renewable energy, announced the government’s intention to stop the import of coal, further denting the Carmichael coal mine’s prospects. Solar energy prices fell drastically to be almost at par with coal prices.

Further, the State Bank of India lent the US $1 billion for building the mine at a time when others have refused to fund the project fearing public outrage.

Legal battles of Adani coal mine

As of November 2018, the Adani Group had fought and won 9 lawsuits.  A few of those lawsuits have been mentioned below:

  • Land Services of Coast and Country Inc(LSCC): The LSCC objected to the Carmichael project on the basis that the cumulative process of winning, extracting, transporting and burning the coal will have an adverse global impact and cause environmental harm to Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef; and, in any case, that adverse impacts from emissions were not authorized by the Environmental Authorities. The same lawsuit questioned Adani’s financial capability. The lawsuit went in favor of Adani’s however restrictions were imposed for the protection of groundwater.
  • Mackay Conservation Group(MCG): MCG’s claim alleged that Federal Environment Minister failed to properly consider the impact of the Carmichael mine on the Great Barrier Reef when he approved the project. They also alleged that the Minister failed to properly consider Adani’s poor environmental record in India before approving the mine. The Minister also failed to take into account the approved conservation advice for the Yakka Skink and the Ornamental Snake.

No judgment was delivered but the Court later issued a statement that the parties agreed the Commonwealth Environment Minister had failed to consider approved conservation advice for two listed threatened species, the Yakka Skink and the Ornamental Snake, contrary to the requirements of 9(2) of the EPBC . While the Minister had agreed he had made an error and the approval should be set aside, the decision led to the Australian Government proposing to change the law to prevent “vigilante litigation” and “lawfare” by “radical green groups”.

  • Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF): ACF filed a lawsuit followed by many reviews. Although ACF won in the end, it did not stop the operation of the mine. The judgment simply mandated Adani Group to file the application again which was again granted.
  • Conservation Action Trust(CAT): This was an Indian NGO that contended the harm the coal would cause to India if the coal were burned here. They contradicted the Adani Group’s claim who said that the project would help provide India electricity. A survey conducted by the NGO showed that 69 percent of Indians expressed that they were opposed to proposals to import coal from Queensland.
  • Coast and Country Association of Queensland: They filed a petition in the Queensland Lands court against the company stating that the mines will impact groundwater in the region. The main contention of the group was that the mine is located in one of the world’s best underground freshwater reserves called the Great Artesian Well in Central Queensland, which will hamper the agricultural activities in the region.
  • Glenco:  Glenco was the previous owner of Abbot Point Operations, a company that operates a port in northern Queensland that is critical to its $16.5bn integrated Carmichael mine, railway and port project. The deal followed a bitter court battle between the two companies for control of the operating company at Abbott Point port. If other mines come up in the region, they would have to use the same port, thus granting access to only the Adani’s would be unfair. The Adani Group, on the other hand, had concerns about security if Glenco operates the port. They alleged Glencore could gain access to sensitive information by operating the port

It, however, would be wrong to say that these lawsuits haven’t achieved anything. The lawsuits, protests along with a reduction in profitability has made almost all investors withdraw from the project. Companies such as Siemens which support the project are boycotted by people and protested against.

A summary of Adani coal mine case

Stop Adani Movement

This is a wave of global protests which tries to achieve its namesake. The movement recently gained momentum when Times Person of the year 2020, Greta Thunberg who called for stopping operations of the mine and criticized companies siding with Adani.

Road ahead

In June 2019, the Adani Group received all the permits required to start operations. They are yet to get a permit for extracting the mine. However, the low funding prompted them to start the operations on a smaller scale than anticipated. The coal prices which was showing a decreasing trend is predicted to increase in 2020. Using this to their benefit, the Group plans to start exporting coal by the year 2020-2021.  Despite the positive changes, the future of the coal mine remains grim as the profitability has reduced and many have labeled the project a risky one. Even the protest has been continued for years with no signs of stopping, casting even more doubts on the project’s future.


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