Coal Finance Case Study: Coal Megaprojects Put the Great Barrier Reef and Indigenous Communities at Risk

posted by Benjamin Collins


As part of RAN’s work to call on banks to commit to the Paris Pledge and end financing for coal and coal-fired power prior to the Paris climate summit this year, we are highlighting case studies of destructive coal projects and failed investments in coal infrastructure around the world. This case study, authored by Greig Aitken from BankTrack highlights Adani and GVK’s coal mine and export projects proposed for Australia’s Galilee Basin. Adani’s project is back in the news this month due to a federal court’s rejection of the mine’s environmental approval and revelations that two more banks, Standard Chartered and Commonwealth Bank of Australia had walked away from it.


Indian mining companies GVK and Adani are currently embarking on plans to develop vast coal mining and export projects in Australia’s Galilee Basin that would light the fuse to a ‘climate bomb.’ If fully developed, coal from the Galilee Basin mine proposals, including GVK’s Alpha project and Adani’s Carmichael mine would be the world’s seventh largest source of fossil fuel CO2 emissions each year, ranking ahead of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, for this coal to be sold, the Abbot Point coal export terminal on the Queensland coast would have to be expanded, jeopardizing the health of the Great Barrier Reef. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has expressed concern about the practice of dumping millions of tons of dredge spoil from mega-port expansions in the reef’s waters, and in June 2015 the committee will decide whether to place the Great Barrier Reef on the list of World Heritage sites that are in danger. In addition, Adani’s planned Carmichael mine, which would export coal through Abbot Point, has prompted opposition from the traditional owners of the mine site, the Wangan and Jagalingou, who rejected the company’s proposed indigenous land use agreement in October 2014.

Individual aspects of the Galilee Basin mining proposals are extreme enough; cumulatively, they could be catastrophic. The 30 million metric ton per year Alpha coal mine and the 60 million metric ton per year Carmichael mine would be among the largest in the world and result in an additional 128 million metric tons of CO2 added to the atmosphere each year. Eight international banks (Barclays, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and RBS) have declared their intention in the last year to steer clear of financing coal terminal expansion at Abbot Point. And in April 2015, three French banks (BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, and Société Générale) went further, committing to refrain from financing either mining projects in the Galilee Basin or associated terminal infrastructure.