Fresh back from Paris, on Monday this week, Greg Hunt (again) gave his approval for the expansion of the Abbot Point port. The expansion would be necessary for what would be Australia’s largest coal mine, Adani’s Carmichael mine, to go ahead. (Prize to anyone who can explain how those two fit together!)
To refresh memories in this complicated process, Minister Hunt’s first approval for the port expansion allowed the dredge spoil to be dumped in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – that was stymied by legal action by NQCC and ended up with a law banning spoil being dumped anywhere in the Marine Park.
The second bright idea, from the Qld LNP government, involved dumping the spoil in the nationally-listed Caley Valley Wetlands! The new ALP government withdrew this crazy idea and put forward a third proposal – only marginally better. It involves dumping the dredge spoil in between the Great Barrier Reef waters and the Wetlands. It is this plan that has been approved.
This approval and expansion still face a number of challenges.
First, is the information, uncovered by NQCC, that the Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposal, on which Minister Hunt based his decision, did not include a tug harbour proposed to be built at the site to allow tugs to deal with the increased ship traffic. Lawyers are looking closely at this and other issues related to the approval.
But approval is one thing – delivery is something else. And it is here that Adani faces more trouble.
The State government has made it clear that there will be no State financial support for the project. And that there will by no dredging until Adani has ‘financial closure’ (i.e., guaranteed funding for the project).
On top of that, the International Energy Agency (a very pro-coal body) has stated that, on the basis of the outlook for coal, the Carmichael mine “is not likely to be operational by 2020, if ever”.
And to add insult to injury, Moody is considering downgrading Adani’s credit rating from the lowest level to ‘junk status’. Not what a cash-strapped company looking to raise $16 billion really needs!
No doubt the long-running saga will continue in 2016!