By Bella Olsson
I’ll be honest with you – when I first heard that an enormous, foreign owned, emissions-spewing, water-contaminating coal mine was being proposed for central Queensland, my initial reaction was, “This sounds like a truly awful idea that will drive the Great Barrier Reef into the grave, drastically increase our reliance on finite resources, exacerbate the already astronomical levels of pollution in our atmosphere and do little to nothing for long term economic growth while lining the pockets of foreign investors and the political elite.”
As it turns out … I was completely correct. The Adani Carmichael mine is truly awful, so sit back and listen patiently, dear friends, while I tell you why you should be up in arms about it.
What is it?
Adani is a proposed coalmine in central Queensland, due to start construction this month. Adani Group, an Indian multinational conglomerate, has proposed the mine, and, if built, it will be the largest coalmine in Australia, producing 60 million tonnes of coal per year. It will also involve the construction of a 400-kilometre railroad connecting it to the coast as well as a coal export terminal within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
How much will it cost?
Only $21.7 billion!
Why is it being built?
Corruption! Jobs and growth! Adani, Queensland Labor and the federal government have confirmed the mine will generate 10,000 jobs for Australians!
Well, truth be told, Adani’s very own expert consultant, Jerome Fahrer, told the Land Court in 2015 that a more accurate number was … 1,200 jobs over the entire lifetime of the mine.
In other news, renewable energy projects in Queensland generated 1,200 jobs in 2017 alone, with that number set to increase as more are developed.
As wise old Industry Super once said, “Compare the Pair”.
What will the environmental cost be?
You know those fire danger rating signs you see on rural highways? Well the equivalent “potential for environmental damage caused by the Adani mine” rating is somewhere between “extreme” and “well and truly fucked”.
Let’s start with climate change. The emissions generated by the 4.7 billion tonnes of coal produced by the Carmichael mine will be equivalent to nine times Australia’s total emissions in 2014, and will singlehandedly exceed 0.5% of the entire world’s carbon budget. As in, the budget we cannot exceed if we want to avoid irreversible and catastrophic climate damage. So that’s fun!
What about the Great Barrier Reef? Well, the mine will require dredging the seabed and dumping the spoils next to the Caley Valley Wetlands, where dredge materials are likely to spread through the waterways, where they will come in contact with the reef and expose it to disease.
But that’s not all! So far, more than half of the reef has undergone coral bleaching, with two of the severest bleaching events occurring since 2015 due to warming ocean temperatures, which, surprise surprise, are set to continue rising as climate change worsens. The astronomical emissions from the Adani mine will contribute enormously to climate change, and likely lead to future mass bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef. Professor Will Steffen from the Climate Council has said: “The science is absolutely clear – continuing to mine, drill and burn coal, oil and gas will kill the Great Barrier Reef over coming decades.”
So things are not looking good for the planet. But you might not even care about the environment – after all, it’s just our home and the source of all life on earth. You might be asking more important questions, such as…
What will the economic cost be?
The Carmichael mine will generate $5.5 billion in mining royalties over the first 10 years of its operation, with estimates projecting its total revenue for Australia will be somewhere in the vicinity of $16.5 billion, depending on its lifespan. However, in 2013, Morgan Stanley projected that, based on the ongoing global move toward sustainable energy sources, the coal mine’s overall return on investment would be $0.
We’ve established that construction of the mine is essentially a death wish for the Great Barrier Reef. Not only is the reef a natural wonder, it is also a massive source of tourism in Australia, providing over 60,000 jobs and bringing in $6 billion in revenue each year. That’s more than Adani is projected to generate in a decade. I’m no economist, but I feel like that trade off makes exactly zero financial sense.
This is fucked, what can I do?
You can harass politicians like Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce about it by sending them an email. They will either ignore you or send back a snarky reply, but it’s a fun exercise nonetheless.