ADANI has the go-ahead to start building the Carmichael coal mine – but is the governments’ approval for the project the future direction we had hoped for?
Pitted against the prospect of jobs and an economic boost are the lingering concerns for environmental protection.
“The project will deliver 1500 direct and 6750 indirect jobs during ramp-up and construction, with Rockhampton and Townsville the primary hubs for employment,” Adani Mining chief executive officer Lucas Dow promised on June 13, the day Queensland Government issued approval for the company’s groundwater management plan.
It was the last approval needed after years of protest and struggle, that has divided Australians and Queenslanders, and proven vexing for many Catholics.
“I’m delighted,” Vince Vandeleur, 82, now living in Brisbane, and a former lawyer in Innisfail, and parishioner from the town’s Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, said.
“Stopping coal mines will do almost nothing. It is not the answer.”
Catholic social justice advocate Peter Arndt holds a contrary view.
As Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission executive officer, Mr Arndt believes Australia needs a transition from coal and gas-dependent communities to clean energy, a strategy the Federal Government agreed to as part of the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change, dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation.
“I understand that many people in central and northern Queensland are concerned about their economic future and that they see the Adani mine as a lifeline, but the consequences of continuing to mine and use coal for power for all of us, including the people of central and northern Queensland, will be immense,” he said.
“Other countries are taking this much more seriously than Australia.
“Germany is phasing out all coal-fired power stations and it has a commission bringing together all major stakeholders to manage the transition.”
On June 15, Pope Francis added weight to international concerns by declaring a global “climate emergency” and telling oil company executives that specific measures were needed to alleviate the problem with rising global temperatures.
“The climate crisis requires our decisive action, here and now and the Church is fully committed to playing her part,” he said.
“Time is running out. Deliberations must go beyond mere exploration of what can be done, and concentrate on what needs to be done.
“We do not have the luxury of waiting for others to step forward, or of prioritising short-term economic benefits.”
Mr Arndt said he agreed wholeheartedly with Pope Francis, and looked to “overwhelming scientific evidence about the impact of climate change on our planet”, included in a 2018 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report warning of the impacts of a 1.5 degrees celcius rise above pre-industrial levels in the next 12 years.
However, Mr Vandeleur said he was not convinced the Church should be engaging in the climate change debate.
“That doesn’t go well with me, that argument,” he said.
Showing his support for the Adani project, Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the groundwater approval marked “a historic day for Queensland”.
“It has been more than 50 years since a new coal basin has opened in Queensland, so this development is of huge importance to the economic future of Queensland,” Senator Canavan said.
He has called on the Queensland Government to now approve other coal mines in the state.
Last month, Queensland’s Labor Government announced it would fast-track Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine, just days after federal Labor’s shock election loss.
Political analysts and MPs have argued Labor’s mixed messaging on Adani during campaigning cost votes in Queensland.
Adani’s Carmichael mine was the first of six waiting approval to begin in the Galilee basin, which is described as the state’s last significant coal resource.
Other Galilee Basin mines ready to go include the Alpha Coal and Kevin’s Corner projects owned by GVK and Gina Rineharts’s Hancock; Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal projects at Alpha North and Galilee Coal; AMCI’s South Galilee; and MacMines Austasia’s China Stone Coal Projects.
For pastoralists Bruce and Annette Currie, who run the central Queensland cattle property Speculation, the string of mining projects will threaten their groundwater supply, and add stress to farmers and graziers.
Since 2013, the Curries have been trying to get their ground water protected, by taking action in the Land Court.
“If we lose our water, we lose our livelihoods, and as everyone can appreciate the agricultural sector has one of the highest suicide rates in the country and this will just add another stress level to the industry and the chance of people committing suicide,” Mr Currie said.
“At first they (Adani) have tried to magnify the benefits.
“But even the few jobs that they may provide, it’s only subjective.
“No one knows where the jobs will come from.
“Even the local mayors are starting to go weak at the knees, because they were hoping this project might do something for their economy, but actually the net number of jobs will be a negative because there are mines already in the Central Highlands area reported to be closing and those people will be chasing jobs.”
The Wangan and Jagalingou Council, a body representing Indigenous people in the Galilee Basin, claims Adani poses a threat to their sacred Doongmabulla springs, and is determined to keep the anti-mine fight alive.
“We said no to Adani and we will keep saying no. Adani is not welcome in our country,” council senior spokesman Adrian Burragubba said.