Land Court clears way for Carmichael coal

The Land Court has recommended Adani be issued a mining lease for the Carmichael project in the Bowen Basin, paving the way for the biggest coal development in Queensland, and the third biggest in the world.

The recommendation has come only days after a special meeting between Adani chairman Gautam Adani and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on December 4, in which the Indian mining magnate requested that the PM introduce a special law to prohibit activist groups from seeking judicial review of environmental approvals.

In an interview with Thiruvananthapuram on December 5, the chairman was explicit and imperative in his tone about the action he believed the Australian government should take.

"Ultimately, a decision lies with the politicians. They have to go Parliament for enacting a special law which says that once government gives approval, no one can challenge it. That is what our request is to the Australian government. You come up with a special legislation which they have done in the past also.

"The challenge we are facing in Australia right now is [that] on the one side government is giving all approvals and on the other side, environment activists groups are seeking judicial review and that derails the whole project."

Environmental groups have expressed concern at the level of political access granted to multi-billionaires, while non-profit groups are unable to seek the same kind of audience with the Australian leader.

Statements from Adani spruik the project as capable of generating 10,000 jobs, despite reports earlier in the year from Adani’s own expert witness Dr Jerome Fahrer that the mine will only employ 1464 full-time jobs each year (compared to Adani’s earlier claims of 3500 direct employees plus indirect job creation).

Adani also suggests the project will deliver $22 billion in royalties and taxes to Queensland over the “half-life” of the project.

With $3.3 billion already invested in project development over the past five years, as well as a further $21.4 billion worth of investment to come through construction of the mine and associated infrastructure, Adani are not expected to pay any tax to the Australian government for years, thanks to extensive tax write-offs to come during the operational life of the mine.

A spokesperson for Adani was unable to comment on how long it would take after completion of construction for the company to begin paying profit taxes, citing volatility in coal prices as a difficulty in making such a projection, however it was addressed that royalty payments would commence from the first tonnes of coal mined.

It is understood Adani Australia is still uncertain about the potential source of project finance, as a new legal challenge from the Australian Conservation Foundation will again cause delays to approval for the project, which in turn will cause potential investors to feel uncertain about prospects for the development.

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