Hundreds of Australians gathered outside Parliament House in Canberra on Monday to demand that lawmakers — heading into the first legislative session of 2018 — stop what would be the country’s largest coal mine from being built.
Adani, the Indian-based energy group behind the $12 billion facility, submitted an application to the Queensland government in 2010 to build Carmichael coal mine, but has yet to receive full approval from federal and provincial officials due to environmental and legal concerns from residents. The project has spurred a movement across the country, with a recent poll showing a majority of Australians, or nearly 56 percent, opposing the project.
Maggie McKeown, a community organizer for the Mackay Conservation Group and a speaker at Monday’s demonstration, highlighted the #StopAdani alliance as an example of resistance to the mine. In March 2017, several groups, including McKeown’s, formed the coalition to stop the project.
“In the last 10 months, the #StopAdani alliance has grown from a few groups to hundreds of groups and to thousands and millions of supporters around Australia and the world,” McKeown said.
She described Adani as a company with a questionable environmental record, using its Abbot Point coal port, located a few miles northeast of the proposed facility, as an example. Last April, after a cyclone hit the facility, coal-laden water spilled into the nearby wetlands. And just last week, an investigation discovered that Adani under-reported the damage caused by the spill and tampered with lab results sent to environmental regulators.
“Adani is a company that can’t adhere to the environmental standards put in place by our state government,” McKeown said. “They lie about what they’ve done.”
The fear of an even larger disaster occurring at the proposed Carmichael mine is just one reason many attended Monday’s demonstration.
“Politicians need to be reminded that this movement will continue to grow in size and strength until they take a stand for our future, do what it takes to stop this mine and move Australia beyond the devastating impacts of coal,” #StopAdani organizer Charlie Wood said.
According to an environmental impact statement, the project would require at least 3.17 billion gallons of groundwater per year, which would risk drying out aquifers and other water resources. Local wildlife, agriculture and towns that depend on that water would be greatly affected.
“[In addition,] it would place further stress on our precious and increasingly dying Great Barrier Reef, which supports almost 70,000 jobs,” Wood said. “It would run roughshod over traditional owners’ rights, devastating their cultural heritage.”
The carbon emissions, meanwhile, would be unprecedented in Australia’s history. Carmichael would emit at least 78 million tons of CO2 per year, far more than the cities of Toronto, New York City or Paris — all in the service of producing coal intended largely for export to India.
Needless to say, the country’s commitment to reducing its carbon emissions under the Paris climate accord would be in jeopardy. To ensure that Australia helps reduce global temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius, over 90 percent of the country’s coal must stay in the ground.
350.org Pacific campaigner Joseph Zane Sikulu also spoke at Monday’s gathering outside Parliament House, urging lawmakers to reject the project in order to uphold the country’s climate commitments.
“We have the potential to blow out the targets the government agreed to in Paris two years ago,” Sikulu said. “We need to transition away from fossil fuels, and it’s never going to happen if the government pushes mines like this one.”
All this opposition is clearly having an effect, as Adani is losing momentum with the project. The country’s largest four banks refuse to offer loans to the project. Downer, a construction firm that obtained a $2.6 billion contract to build the coal mine, parted ways with Adani after the latter failed to secure a loan from the Queensland provincial government.
Still, as McKeown explained, Adani is not giving up on a $12 billion coal mine. If both provincial and federal officials refuse to publicly condemn the project, the firm is optimistic the project will happen.
With Monday’s demonstration as the official start to further actions and demonstrations this year, activists anticipate even more victories against the company and, perhaps, an end to a near-decade conversation over the facility.
“We built a movement that nags politicians,” McKeown said. “We want politicians to know that we’re not a movement that will go away. We’re a movement that will keep lobbying until its stopped together.”