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Push is on to approve Adani coalmine before Australian federal elections
by Margaret Gleeson at GreenLeft Weekly (editor [at] greenleft.org.au)
Saturday Mar 30th, 2019 12:40 AM
The huge Indian mining corporation Adani has launched another public relations’ offensive in a bid to secure its last approvals before it can start work on its Carmichael coalmine in central Queensland before the federal election in May, and the right-of-centre Australian government is keen to help it along.
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On March 20 federal resources minister Matt Canavan visited the Adani site for a briefing, along with Liberal and National Party MPs Michelle Landry, George Christensen and Ken O’Dowd.

Canavan later posted on his Facebook that the mine was ready to go, criticising the delays imposed by the Queensland Labor government. He did not respond to questions about whether Adani or taxpayers had paid for his flight.

The Courier Mail quoted Canavan saying that Adani’s groundwater approval will be “settled in weeks”, pre-empting the report findings of CSIRO and Geoscience Australia which have not been released. It claims that once the reports are received the federal government will tick off the approval.

Adani blames the Queensland government for the delays, giving the Coalition its election campaign pitch.

But the delay is connected to the yet-to-be released Queensland government-commissioned independent report on a management plan for the endangered black-throated finch. Adani has pre-emptively said it will reject the report.

Separately, the Queensland government has to approve the ground water management plan.
Legal challenges

Adani’s claim that its final approval is imminent also ignores the outstanding legal challenges.

The High Court decision on the appeal by the Wangan and Jagalingou Tribal Council (W&J) has been delayed until April or May — a delay caused by Adani’s unsuccessful attempt to have W&J elders sued for legal costs.

In December, the Environment Defenders Office Queensland (EDO QLD), on behalf of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), lodged a challenge in the Federal Court seeking a review of the decision to allow assessment of Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme to proceed without applying the water trigger, as specified under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

On March 15, the EDO’s lawyers added an extra ground to that action arguing that the federal environment minister failed to properly consider more than 1000 public comments in submissions on the pipeline.

This could add months to reaching a final decision on whether to allow the mine to proceed.

If successful, the action would force the government to go back to the drawing board and consider the impact a huge pipeline project would have on Australia’s scarce water resources.

“If we are successful, the minister will need to go back to square one and properly consider every one of the valid comments before making a new decision on the NGWS [North Galilee Water Scheme],” said one person in an email to the EDO Qld.
Dismissive attitude

Adani has displayed a dismissive attitude towards the environmental requirements of existing approvals. The Department of Environment and Science (DES) charged the Adani-owned Abbot Point Bulk Coal (APBC) with breaching a temporary emissions licence due to a discharge at the coal terminal during Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

APBC is contesting the $12,190 penalty. The matter is still before the courts.

During last month’s major rain event in Queensland, APBC compounded the original breach by releasing contaminated water into sensitive wetlands. Adani was fined $13,055 on March 25 for another breach of its environmental obligations.

Adani protested that extreme weather and flooding played a role, and that the Caley Valley Wetlands and Great Barrier Reef were not harmed.

ACF’s Christian Slattery said: “If Adani can’t safely operate Abbot Point, how can it be expected to safely operate a giant coal mine?”

“It is ironic that Adani blamed extreme weather for this spill incident”, he continued. “If Adani’s planned Carmichael mine goes ahead, digging up and burning that coal will add to global warming, which is intensifying heatwaves, bushfires, floods and other extreme weather.”

The Mackay Conservation Group has described the Caley Valley as “one of the most beautiful and largest coastal wetlands in Queensland”.

“Of the 200-plus known species of birds that frequent the wetlands, three are listed as threatened, including a nationally important of the vulnerable Australian Painted Snipe,” the group said.

National movement grows

The national movement against the Adani mine is having an impact. Polls show that there is growing opposition to the mine in Central Queensland.

Activists are focussing on Labor MPs in the lead up to the federal elections with local Stop Adani groups and Greypower initiating actions outside their electorate offices.

The Galilee Blockade and Frontline Action on Coal (FLAC) are continuing with direct actions aimed at companies contracted by Adani.

The latest in the firing line is Wagners, subcontracted for the construction of initial infrastructure. Wagners’ share price recently slumped and it is keen to secure the Adani contract.

Galilee Blockade activists have been telephoning Wagners executives to warn that the company’s operations will be disrupted if it starts work for Adani.

Over the summer, FLAC activists disrupted rail operator Aurizon coal trains. The $8.3 billion rail company provides Adani with coal transportation to its Abbot Point Terminal.

Aurizon is now suing FLAC activists for $375,000 compensation.

FLAC spokesperson Hayley Sestokas has called on Aurizon to change tack and “lead the way” in addressing climate change instead of “attempting to silence dissent”.

“Aurizon and Adani have got it very wrong if they think legal attacks will get them off the hook for ignoring scientific consensus and the majority of Australians,” Sestokas said.
National movement grows

"The national movement against the Adani mine is having an impact. Polls show that there is growing opposition to the mine in Central Queensland.

Activists are focussing on Labor MPs in the lead up to the federal elections with local Stop Adani groups and Greypower initiating actions outside their electorate offices.

The Galilee Blockade and Frontline Action on Coal (FLAC) are continuing with direct actions aimed at companies contracted by Adani.

The latest in the firing line is Wagners, subcontracted for the construction of initial infrastructure. Wagners’ share price recently slumped and it is keen to secure the Adani contract.

Galilee Blockade activists have been telephoning Wagners executives to warn that the company’s operations will be disrupted if it starts work for Adani.

Over the summer, FLAC activists disrupted rail operator Aurizon coal trains. The $8.3 billion rail company provides Adani with coal transportation to its Abbot Point Terminal.
Aurizon is now suing FLAC activists for $375,000 compensation.

FLAC spokesperson Hayley Sestokas has called on Aurizon to change tack and “lead the way” in addressing climate change instead of “attempting to silence dissent”.

“Aurizon and Adani have got it very wrong if they think legal attacks will get them off the hook for ignoring scientific consensus and the majority of Australians,” Sestokas said."

3Adani has once again missed its own deadline for starting construction at its Carmichael coalmine in the Galilee Basin, but the coalmining giant is ramping up its propaganda war and intimidation of activists.

Adani is continuing to run advertisements and opinion pieces in newspapers, along with paying for huge billboards in Brisbane, all talking up the supposed jobs that the proposed mine will create.

But while Adani has announced that heavy construction equipment will be moved to the area and that it is engaging contractors, it will not be able to start construction unless it gets approval for its environmental management plan relating to the black-throated finch and a groundwater management plan.

Adani is also facing a legal challenge in the Federal Court by the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council (W&J TO), which is due to be heard in May.

In December, Adani sought a court order demanding that the W&J TO pay $161,000 to the court to cover potential costs and for the challenge to be dismissed if payment is not made.

Adani was seeking to bankrupt Adrian Burragubba, one of the five W&J TO challengers, over $600,000 in unpaid cost orders from previous challenges.

Justice Alan Robertson ruled against Adani, saying its demand was “disproportionate and unpersuasive”.

On February 5, the W&J TO criticised federal resources minister Matt Canavan for “running a protection racket for Adani while taking cheap shots at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination”.

The United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination wrote to Australia’s UN ambassador last month to raise concerns that consultation on Adani’s Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) “might not have been conducted in good faith”.

It also said that the coalmine may violate Indigenous rights under an international convention against racial discrimination if it goes ahead. It gave Australia until April 8 to formally respond.

W&J TO said: “Canavan and Adani keep saying that Adrian Burragubba and the W&J Council don't speak for the Traditional Owners. One thing is absolutely certain ... Canavan and Adani don’t.

“Neither Canavan nor Adani would know land rights if they fell over them.

“We will persist with our petitioning of various UN bodies because the legislation and processes in Australia fall well short of international laws and standards to which Australia is a signatory.”

The Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) criticised Adani’s latest management plan covering the black-throated finch on January 22.

It said Adani had backtracked in its commitments compared to previous proposals by cutting more than 2000 hectares from a core habitat area it is proposing to set aside for the critically-endangered species.

The fact that those hectares have been lost to a competing coalminer is another indication of the ongoing road blocks for the Adani coal project.

Given so much of the finch’s core habitat rests on mining tenures, one would hope that the Queensland government will publish its Bioregional Management Plan before it gives any further consideration to the Adani mine.

Adani is also attempting to strong-arm the Queensland government into approving its smaller-sized mine despite not having had its groundwater management plan approved.

On January 21, a state Department of Environment and Science (DES) spokesperson said that Adani’s groundwater management plan needs to be updated on advice from the CSIRO.

“DES continues to provide feedback to Adani to ensure that the [groundwater management plan] meets approval requirements, and will not continue to assess the [groundwater management plan] until an updated version is submitted.”

Regarding allegations about the mine’s de-watering bores not meeting the guidelines, the department said it would undertake a more thorough investigation that its federal counterparts had.

However, even if these environmental approvals were put in place in coming weeks and Adani was found to have complied with existing approvals, the mine could not proceed until the W&J TO appeal before the Federal Court Bench is heard.

Snaps actions, such as those organised to meet the Coalition and Labor election caravans in Queensland in recent weeks and outside the address by Adani CEO Lucas Dow at the Sydney Mining Club on February 7, will continue.

The Stand Up 2 Aurizon group is planning an action directed at the rail and port aspects of the project in Bowen from February 23 to March 3.

Various groups are hoping to convert climate change and opposition to new coal mines into key election issues.

Grey Power Climate Protectors, among others, will be targeting the seats of Melbourne and Brisbane for 50 days leading up to the federal elections. In NSW, anti-coal activists targeted a number of marginal seats in the lead-up to the March state election.

Labor’s shadow treasurer Chris Bowen is citing sovereign risk as one of the reasons Labor will not rule out supporting Adani. The other reason he gave to a meeting in Bowen on February 4 is that the mine has been scaled down. In other words, Labor is unconcerned about the prospect of more coal mines.

Given this, we need to step up our organising efforts if we are going to make Labor pay a significant price for its support for Adani and disastrous climate change.
Glencore’s dirty tricks exposed

Days after Glencore, the largest mining company in the world, announced an annual cap on thermal coal, details of its well-funded pro-coal campaign emerged.

Anti-coal campaigners have demanded reforms to limit the abuse of money politics.

On March 8 The Guardian revealed that Glencore hired the C|T Group to spread pro-coal and anti-renewables messages across supposedly grassroots Facebook groups and other social media platforms, as well as to influence government and traditional media.

Project Caesar, as it was known, was given an estimated £4-7 million annual budget to identify climate justice organisations, including Greenpeace, and smear or undermine them.

Environmental groups have condemned Glencore and called for the lobbyist register to be overhauled to ensure that politicians are forced to disclose meetings and donations in real time.

Head of campaigns for Greenpeace Australia Pacific Jamie Hanson said Project Caesar was another example of Glencore “attempting to sow misinformation about the damage that they’re doing to the environment”.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said Glencore was trying to muddy the science and attack renewable alternatives — all to maintain its profit.

ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said: “This is about putting private profit ahead of the safety of the community and the viability of our planet.”

She said it should prompt reforms to take lobbying and big money out of politics.

The Guardian revealed that Project Caesar began in early 2017 and continued until mid-February. It was linked to a Facebook group and website with significant reach, named “Energy in Australia”.

The Facebook group pushed professional video and graphics attacking renewables and praising high-efficiency, low-emissions coal power plants to its more than 20,000 followers.

There was no disclosure of the link between the page and Glencore.

“Energy in Australia” was taken offline within days of The Guardian asking the C|T Group and Glencore about its links to Project Caesar.

Glencore has confirmed it paid the C|T Group to run the project, arguing it wanted to counter misinformation spread by environmental activists.

[Reprinted by permission of GreenLeft Weekly]
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by Margaret Gleeson at GreenLeft Weekly Saturday Mar 30th, 2019 12:40 AM
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by Margaret Gleeson at GreenLeft Weekly Saturday Mar 30th, 2019 12:40 AM
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