Adani seeks Australian legislation change to protect coal development

Sydney, Dec 9 (IANS) A billionaire Indian businessman has reportedly met with Australia’s prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, seeking new laws that prohibit court actions against controversial environmental approvals for major projects.

Gautum Adani put the proposal before the Australian government during an hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in early November, Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday.

The move is in response to continued court action by environmental groups against the proposed $10.84 Carmichael coal project in Queensland, which includes port and rail infrastructure.

“Now it is enough. They cannot continue to challenge the project. They cannot go for judicial review all the time. In OECD countries, you are not given approvals with closed eyes,” Adani is quoted by Fairfax Media as saying.

Adani was aiming to ship 40 million tonnes of coal per year to power stations in India during the project’s first phase, which he describes as an important project between Australia and India providing electricity to a minimum 100 million people over the next 100 years.

This was despite prices for thermal coal, used in power stations, are continuing its four year slump to reach new 10-year lows of $54 per tonne last week down from almost $100 per tonne in 2013 as market oversupply continues.

Adani’s major Australian competitor, Swiss-based Glencore, was shuttering operations in response, using in-pit inventories and current stockpiles for production, effectively closing Queensland’s oldest coal mine.

The billionaire said despite the coal and commodities downturn, “we have to revive to the next cycle”.

However, the project has been delayed by ongoing protests and court cases by green groups since work began five years ago, restricting the company’s ability to raise funds to begin construction.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Australia’s largest bank, ceased their role as financial advisor to the project while several other banks have ruled out lending to the project.

Australia’s government was currently seeking amendments to environmental legislation that would restrict the ability of green groups to conduct “lawfare” and object to major developments. Those laws are currently before the senate and won’t be debated until parliament resumes next year.

“The government has sought to ensure that American style serial litigation is not adopted in Australia, and that once the stringent environmental requirements are met, projects should not be subject to continuing stalling litigation,” a spokeswoman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt said.

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