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The Adani Coal Mine Is Going Ahead. Here Are The Main Concerns

What it means for the reef, the industry and the future.

06/12/2016 12:35 PM AEDT | Updated 06/12/2016 4:22 PM AEDT
Wayne Taylor / Fairfax Media
Protests around the country have pressured the government to change their mind about Adani mine approval.

Townsville is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef but it's also going to be the home base of Australia's newest coal mine -- to be built by Indian company Adani.

The controversial Carmichael coal mine is going ahead despite ongoing opposition on environmental grounds -- both from those seeking to protect the nearby Great Barrier Reef as well as people who'd rather see investment in renewable energy over emissions-producing coal.

Then there's unresolved Indigenous heritage concerns, questions about the economic viability of coal in a time of global change, as well as fears about foreign workers potentially brought in by the Indian-owned company.

For those of you who've missed the brouhaha, here's the low-down on Adani coal mine.

What are the details of Adani's coalmine?

Carmichael coal mine is set to be the largest coal mine in Australia, based in Queensland and reportedly costed at $22 million. It will be based in Gallilee Basin with an employment hub in Townsville.

It will have six open-cut pits as well as underground mines. Coal mined will be used in Indian power plants. To get to India, there are proposals for a rail line from the mine to Abbott Point, which will be expanded to allow for big ships, as well as dredging 1.1 million cubic metres beside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

It's predicted to have a lifespan of 50-60 years.

How about economic concerns?

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis energy finance studies director Tim Buckley told The Huffington Post Australia Adani had a few red flags.

For starters, he said it had a string of offshore tax havens in Singapore, the Cayman Islands and Mauritius.

Amit Dave / Reuters
India's solar future is looking bright.

Buckley also said the world was changing, nowhere more so than in India, where the coal would be used.

"The cost of installed solar in India has dropped by 80 percent in the past five years and imported coal is now more expensive than solar power," Buckley said.

What is the issue with the Great Barrier Reef?

It's two-fold -- pollution caused by increased mine activity and dredging could impact the reef, and the global impact of emissions-producing coal contributes to climate change, which is the root cause of devastating coral bleaching and ocean acidification.

Greens deputy leader Larissa Waters said the mine would be a "climate disaster" to the Great Barrier Reef.

Ho New / Reuters
Marine activist Suzanne Kavanagh swims above coral suffering from bleaching on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
"We have the most beautiful, bio-diverse icon in the world and yet just seen today whole posse of politicians lined up to trumpet a project that will further endanger the reef's health," Waters said.

"This is right after we've just had the biggest bleaching event at the Great Barrier Reef which scientists say is because if increased water temperatures becasue of global warming.

I listen to the reef scientists who say we are at a crossroads and we have to choose between new coal and the future of the Great Barrier Reef.Larissa Waters

"It boggles the mind."

Waters said the 70,000 people who work on the reef should be weighed against the 10,000 jobs to be provided by the mine.

"I listen to the reef scientists who say we are at a crossroads and we have to choose between new coal and the future of the Great Barrier Reef," she said.

"I'm on the side of the 70,000 people who need the reef healthy for their job and I'm on the side of future generations who will not believe we were willing to sacrifice this natural icon."

What about climate change in general?

Doctors for the Environment Australia spokesperson Fiona Stanley said the mine was a step in the wrong direction for Australia.

"Opening this mine goes against international efforts to control climate change and its health effects," Stanley said.

"If the Galilee basin were to be developed it would produce around 700 million tonnes of CO2 each year, or 1.3 times Australia's annual emissions.

"We are already seeing the impacts that extreme weather is having in our day-to-day lives -- the increasing storms, floods and fires, infectious disease and the rising stream of climate refugees.

"Doctors find it hard to accept that we have a government that can ignore the rising number of deaths and illnesses from climate change in Australia and globally.

"The cost of the 2010-2011 Queensland floods alone was $14 billion."

Stringer Australia / Reuters
Queensland's tropical storms are expected to get worse with a changing climate.

And foreign investment?

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Tuesday announced she'd made an agreement with Adani that no 457 visas would be used to bring in foreign workers over qualified Queenslanders at the mine.

"Today is a great day for regional Queensland," Palaszczuk said.

"This project will bring about around 10,000 jobs. The life of this project will be anywhere between 50 and 60 years. That means generational jobs. That means that you can work on this project and your son or daughter may have the opportunity to also work on this project."

Employment isn't the only concern though; MP Bob Katter said the associated rail line connecting the mine basin and Abbott Point should be Australian-owned infrastructure.

"We need this huge piece of infrastructure not only to create jobs and assist the Adani mine going ahead, but also to remain in the possession of Australians once it is done," Katter said.

"This railway should be a tool for other projects that may open up in the region, not just as a profit maker for Adani."

Construction on the mine was expected to begin next year.

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