Adani – a mirage that will dissolve into mist?

The Adani board has given the nod to the $16.5 billion Carmichael projects which would generate 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, with pre-construction works starting in the September quarter of 2017.

Yet there are some cautionary voices:

The approval is conditional on Adani getting a $1 billion loan for the rail link to the Galilee basin from the Canavan/National Party slush fund Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF). A decision is to be made in next few days. Giles Parkinson thinks that the “Reputation” clause may scupper government loan deal for Adani.

Maybe not, I’m sure a co-operative board has been installed.

Quiggin says the Adani board made much more consequential decision than the project approval:

    They are spinning off the 4GW Ultra Mega Power Plant* at Mundra, along with a huge load of debt, into a subsidiary, provisionally called Adani Power (Mundra). The plan it seems is to sell majority ownership, hopefully to the government of Gujarat, and thereby leave the slimmed down Adani Power with a manageable debt load, while it shifts further away from coal and into renewables.

    But without Mundra, Adani Power won’t have nearly enough coal-fired plant to take up the output of even the first stage of Carmichael.

Building the rail line will give them a couple of years grace before spending their own money, because the rail line will be owned, would you believe, by a separate Adani company in the Cayman Islands. That, thinks Quiggin, will give Adani time during which something might turn up.

    And, if nothing did turn up, Adani would have bought a couple of years breathing space before writing off the losses that have already been incurred, without spending a significant amount of its own money. Adani (Caymans) would slide gracefully into bankruptcy and the Australian public would be left with a half-built rail line to nowhere and a billion dollar hole in our collective pockets.

Meanwhile Giles Parkinson points out that the IEA climate scenarios make mockery of Australia’s defence of Adani coal. I know the court decided that the Indians, not us, would be responsible for the emissions, but the IEA, a conservative OECD institution, has told us that burning coal has to stop well within the life of the mine. If we lend good money for the rail line we are more than complicit.

Elsewhere, Marcia Langton has delivered a blast to the green environmental activists, who she says have ‘hijacked’ indigenous issues. They are using money from wealthy overseas donors to disrupt agreements between Aboriginal groups and mining companies, which would benefit Aborigines and give them jobs.

There’s more at The Guardian:

    Prominent Indigenous academic Marcia Langton has blasted the campaign against the controversial Adani coalmine, saying the Greens and the “environmental industry” are treating Indigenous people as “collateral damage”.

From Matthew Stevens in the AFR:

    She [Langton] bemoaned too that “hard-won Indigenous economic standing” risked being sacrificed in the name of the Green movement’s blanket opposition to mining.

    “Let me be clear for those who are not aware of the problems we face: cashed-up green groups, some funded by wealthy overseas interests, oppose mining projects with often-flimsy evidence and misrepresent the evidence to the public.

    “They deliberately thwart the aspirations and native title achievements of the majority of Indigenous people by deception, by persuading the media and the public that a small handful of Indigenous campaigners who oppose the legitimate interests of the majority of their own people are the truth-tellers and heroes.

    “In a series of very sophisticated and well-funded manoeuvres, they disguise their campaign strategies to end mining as pro-Indigenous campaigns.

    “In fact, they are undermining the majority Indigenous people who have worked hard with the flawed Native Title Act to achieve Aboriginal governance of very difficult problems in the region of the proposed Carmichael mine.

    “There are legitimate ways to express opposition to mining and other projects, but sacrificing Indigenous achievements by using Aboriginal people in campaigns based on deception about the majority Aboriginal view in the region of the Carmichael mine is not one of them.”

Marcia Langton is a well-respected straight shooter. She also spent a major part of the address talking about the move to automating mining and other jobs, and how our governments are leaving us ill-prepared for the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.


25 thoughts on “Adani – a mirage that will dissolve into mist?”

  1. Ah well
    If Adani does not have Mundra it can always sell the coal to another firm.
    Perhaps it could ship the coal over to Newcastle in England.

    There is a long tradition of Shipping Coal to Newcastle.

    BTW is there any alternative use for the proposed new rail line….. if the coal mine does not eventuate or ceases early…..

  2. I would listen closely to Marcia Langton. One of the best spokeswomen for her people.

  3. Much as I admire and respect Professor Langton I fear that on this issue she is on the wrong side of history.

  4. The Aborigines of Groote Eylandt have done well out of mining so i can understand that some Aborigines would be reluctant to block mining under some circumstances. However, this doesn’t mean that Green groups should be supporting Adani just because some Aboriginal groups may benefit in the unlikely event that Adani actually does become a profitable mine.

  5. Andrew I’m not touting 10.000 jobs. In my head that was said with irony, but obviously I didn’t get the irony into what I wrote.

    zoot, I think Langton knows which way’s up with history. She’s just calling the greenies tactics illegitimate, and I suspect she’s right.

  6. John, as I understand Marcia Langton she is not saying green groups should support Adani. She’s opposed and indeed upset by the methodology they are using in this case.

    I didn’t want to sum up in so many words in the post, because I’m not completely sure what is going on, but I think she is saying that the legal native title challenge supported by green groups is bogus, because the majority of the local Aborigines support the mine.

    I think there have been ongoing problems, not only about which group holds native title, but also who speaks for the group when there is no organised political entity.

    Langton has proposed changes to the Native Title act to clarify the way these things are handled, and I’d trust her to know what she is doing.

  7. Brian, my doubts about Prof Langston relate more to the climate consequences of her stand than the politics she is criticising. I would never dismiss her opinions (respect her far too much) and I am not sufficiently familiar with these particular issues to comment any further.
    On a personal note I believed I was signing petitions supporting the traditional owners who were opposed to Adani’s mine going ahead on their land. It appears I was conned by ‘well financed overseas green groups’.

  8. John

    I too read Marciano Langton’s comments to say that Aboriginal title holders had done well in many parts of Australia, by negotiating for royalties and job guarantees. I’m sure that’s true, and the benefits such as those you observed on Groote Eylandt have been well worth the effort put into sorting out Native Title legislation by the Keating govt and subsequent tribunals and govts.

    I think she was pointing to a danger of a campaigning group “using” some locals to foist a bogus blocking move, as Brian says, for this particular proposal. The long ago claims and counter claims over a bridge project in South Australia come to mind. That made “secret women’s business” a stock phrase around the whole nation. It was truly a barbecue stopper in its time.

  9. Ambiguous: The Groote Eylandt royalty agreement was reached during the 1960’s, long before native title was granted in the late 1970’s. It was used as a model for what came later.
    Brian: I know nothing about the flow of Aboriginal power and competing claims in the Adani area. However, I knew enough about how these worked on Groote Eylandt to be cautious about accepting what outsiders with an Aboriginal heritage have to say on the matter. In this context, Tony McAvoy SC, who became Australia’s first Indigenous silk in 2015 (and is a member of one of the families opposed to the mine), said that Wangan and Jagalingou people were keenly aware of how their priorities differed from environmentalist allies in a battle to preserve their Queensland country from one of the world’s largest proposed coalmines. He also went on to say:

    the rhetoric of Langton and Warren Mundine, who likened anti-Adani campaigners to colonial oppressors running roughshod over Indigenous self-determination, “serves a purpose for them but is just so inaccurate”.
    The barrister said that to suggest that “the greens are puppet masters pulling the strings and we’re somehow puppets” was wildly off the mark and disrespectful to the many families opposing the mine, including his.

    The W&J are the only Indigenous group in Australia to have, in McAvoy, a senior counsel with expertise in native title law within their ranks.

    “We are likely to be one of the best informed claimant groups in the country, we have many people who are experienced in native title, including my own input, and representation by an extraordinary team of lawyers,” he said.

    McAvoy is part of a contingent within W&J who have mounted legal challenges to an Indigenous land use agreement (Ilua) with Adani, contesting the right of pro-Adani representatives to approve a deal previously spurned by their claim group. The miner resurrected an Ilua last year with majority support in the W&J native title applicant, then sought to register it with the native title tribunal.

    The article goes on to say more about the conflicting claims and should be a cautionary tale for anyone who wants to quote with confidence people like Marcia or Tony.
    Political amateurs like the Greens should be careful about being sucked into Aboriginal conflicts.

  10. On a purely economics level, if Adani want to invest monies here and goes bloke, fine.
    The investors weigh up the risks and cross their fingers.
    I’m opposed to throwing in taxpayer funds ( even if its only $1 bill ) and all Royalties payed in full.

    Funding of the rail is trickier.
    If it’s just for this project then no, if other industries along the route have access then I’m open to weighing up the pros and cons.

  11. Jumpy: As far as I can see the railroad will not be of much use without the mines. However, a sort of local like yourself may see something I have missed.
    Agree about no subsidies. Malcolm should be asked how much of his money he would be willing to risk on Adani?

  12. Jumpy, as I understand it the rail line could be used by other miners in Galilee Basin, but not for anything else.

    I’ve heard that it is a big negative for graziers in the area, as it splits properties and runs across what is effectively a flood plain, altering the water flow when it’s wet.

    John, the McAvoy article is most informative. Seems Langton may be less than fully informed on this one specifically. She comes from a long way back, and I suspect her arguments in general are not without merit.

    I’ll say more a bit later.

  13. Brian: It can be very difficult for outsiders to fully informed when dealing with Aboriginal groups such as the one we were familiar with. Among other problems we have different concepts of good manners.
    For example, “agreeing” can be a lot more important than telling someone what you really think or doing what you “agreed” to do. (Obligation laws help locals understand what they what they can reasonably ask for/expect from someone and, in marginal cases they can probably detect “agreement that is not really an agreement.”)
    “What do you think about…?” may reduce the risk of a false answer than “Do you agree with…?” but there is still the risk that people will guess re what you want to here.
    In something as complex and divisive as the Adani decision some people will want avoid telling strangers things that may undermine negotiation strategies.

  14. John, that all makes sense. BTW it is said that Bob Katter grew up with Aborigines and shows the effects in some of his personal traits.

    I haven’t been following Marcia Langton’s advocacy in any detail, but in a couple of issues I looked at fairly closely green groups showed a disposition to pontificate on what other people should do and how they should live. Around 2009 or 2010 I think, at LP we decided to do something about the “Wild Rivers” issue. I was to do a background post, Tim Seelig from The Wilderness Society was going to do a post, and an Aboriginal guy Mark knew from QUT was going to do a post on how Aboriginal groups in Cape York felt about it.

    The Pearsons were strongly against the policy and locked horns with Dr Seelig and TWS specifically. Not all Aborigines lined up behind the Pearsons.

    I prepared I think one of the best posts I ever did, with over 120 links, from memory, but it never saw the light of day because the others didn’t produce.

    Against my expectations I found myself lining up with the Pearsons and various opinion writers in the Oz against the policy.

    Theoretically under the legislation no reasonable economic activity was excluded, provided that the environment was not harmed. In practice there was so much red tape and hoops to jump through that Aborigines were effectively denied the chance of undertaking any economic activity except park rangers.

    Of course when Campbell Newman came to power the pendulum swung the other way. Not sure who was flattening the bush square kilometres at a time, probably not local Aborigines, but we saw it on our TV screens.

  15. Thanks for the clarification, John.

    Mabo was a big deal, but clearly there was plenty of goodwill, in some parts of the nation, well before Mabo.

    The Gurindji walk off comes to mind. 1965?

    Good to hear that the Groote Eylandt agreement was used later as a template.

  16. Brian: The Greens show a disposition to pontificate on what other people should do and how they should live over a whole range of issues. It is both a strength and a weakness.
    They are also have a romantic attitude towards Aborigines and things like pristine wilderness and wild rivers. (They claim to favour environmental diversity but struggle with the implication that disturbed environments are important to diversity.)

  17. i haven’t had time to read the current Quarterly essay yet The Long Goodbye – Coal, Coral and Australia’s Climate Deadlock by Anna Krien. However, her chat with Phillip Adams on LNL is explosive for couple of reasons. First she paints a really good overview of the scale how the resource industries have highjacked our national agenda. Essentially Australian politicians and bogan voters have sold out our national interest, our economic and ecological integrity to these robber barons in an industry which only provides about 7% of our GDP. Second, she provides detail after shocking detail. Some we know, but out of overall context kind of lost, while others less known, like Old government having spent 10b $ in the past ten years alone on coal related infrastructure, with the then premier (CN) saying Queensland can not expect to finance its hospital and schools without coal. And a year later the Old Treasury saying exactly the opposite, that as a result of coal related infrastructure spending hospitals, schools and public infrastructure spending are struggling. Never mind the spreading of false information by the coal industry on social media, the stuffing up of prime agricultural land and precious water resources (why are farmers still voting for the Nationals who are wholly owned by the mining industry). Both major parties still sprucing the 10’000 Adani jobs, despite Adani in court had to reveal the real much lower expect figure. Then there is the boast by Rio Tinto’s Tom Albanese after Rudd’s disposal “let the Australian experience be a lesson to the governments all around the world” etc, etc.

    Quite disturbing really, it seems we are controlled by psychopathic oligarchs with not a fibre of social consciousness, moral rectitude or honour.

  18. Ootz, yes I heard that and it was a shocker on a number of fronts. Seems are practically giving our mineral resources away, or even supporting people to take them.

    Another shocker was the unlimited water rights given in the Galilee Basin, and the problem of grazers when their water wells fail having to prove that harm has been caused in the courts against a multinational. The ‘make good’ provisions are then a sick charade. Can we seriously think that a multinational is going to truck in water for stock forever?

    And so it goes…

  19. Truck in water from where Brian? Water taken from somewhere else in the water table?
    Back in the good old days premiers like Joh and Charlie Court knew how to screw money out of mining companies in return for permission to mine.
    They also knew how to screw post things like steelworks and alumina plants out in return for the privilege of mining.
    The Nationals in WA were attacked for having the hide to say that a royalty of 25 cents per tonne iron ore was too low.

  20. Truck in water from where Brian?

    Well, exactly.

    However, the biggest hurdle is that the onus of proof that the bore has run dry because of the mining is on the landholder. Bore performance has some natural variation, so I understand it is almost impossible to do against a vigorous and well-heeled litigant.

  21. Ootz
    I think it quite unfair of you to refer to the Old Govt and the Old Treasury.
    Yes, it was a former govt, but you do your wonderful State a disservice to call it “Old”, when most other Australians think of it fondly as warm, tropical, attractive, pleasant, sugary, fruity.
    “Old” has connotations of antiquated, quaint, less advanced. But you were way ahead of the pack: Joh abolished death duties.

    One of the outstanding achievements in making taxation less progressive in Australia, and so long ago…. well before those young whipper-snappers Costello and Howard halved capital gains tax, and made superannuation income for seniors tax free; helping to lock in Budget deficits for years to come, and helping to make taxation less progressive.

    Have you put up a statue to old Joh? Or is it still locked up in a gaol somewhere?

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