Adani expects to start work on its Carmichael mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin within weeks.
- Adani Australia chief Lucas Dow says the company will be exporting coal from the Galilee Basin by 2021
- Greens MP Michael Berkman is questioning Mr Dow’s claim the mine will create 8,250 jobs
- Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill says she will ensure the company honours its promises
Adani Australia chief executive Lucas Dow said the construction process would start in coming weeks and be completed in 2021.
“Ostensibly you can be thinking that in two years’ time, people should be expecting that we’ve exported our first piece of coal,” he said.
Mr Dow said there were already about 120 people working at the company’s Townsville office and that a recruitment drive would now gain momentum.
The most divisive project in recent Australian history can finally break ground. But sceptics still struggle to see how Adani will turn a profit from a remote thermal coal mine in the era of the Paris climate agreement.
“We’ve been hiring for a considerable amount of time; we’ve been placing ads in north and central Queensland, and our contracting partners will be doing the same in the coming days.
“During the ramp-up and construction phase, we’ll see over 1,500 direct jobs created in north and central Queensland and a further 6,750 indirect jobs, and importantly, they’re jobs that otherwise wouldn’t exist in Queensland.”
However, those jobs figures are contentious.
A land court found that the Indian company had routinely overstated the employment benefit from the mine and the reality was just over 1,000 full time positions in Queensland.
On Friday Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she expected Adani to hold up its jobs promise.
“The company has promised 1,500 direct jobs and 6,700 indirect jobs, mostly in Rockhampton and Townsville. They have promised Queensland these jobs … I expect Adani to live up to that promise,” she said.
Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman has accused Mr Dow of misleading a parliamentary inquiry on Adani jobs numbers and referred him to Parliament’s ethics committee.
As an environmental lawyer, Mr Berkman was involved in a 2015 Land Court case when an Adani expert gave evidence it would create an average 1,464 “direct and indirect” jobs a year.
Mr Berkman said Mr Dow had claimed 8,250 jobs would result from a project a quarter of its original size.
Mr Dow, meanwhile, is voicing relief at being able to get on with building the mine.
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‘We working to meet every one of those requirements’ Adani Australia CEO Lucas DowABC NEWS
“What’s going to happen over the next few days is we’re undertaking preparatory works, which include site inductions — ensuring that we’ve got all the safety protocols in place, that we’re going to meet all of our environmental requirements, obviously mobilising equipment to site, finalising contracts and agreements and continuing with the recruitment activities,” Mr Dow said.
“We’re now focused on getting on with the job and we want to say a big thank you to all those folks that have stood beside us, particularly those people in north and central Queensland, and now it’s very much a case of us getting on and delivering upon the promise.”
Clermont property market ‘picking up’
In the central Queensland town of Clermont, residents are hopeful the Carmichael mine will help revitalise their struggling community.
Local real estate agent Jake Passfield said the town was already reaping some benefits from the project.
“Just in the past month we’ve some upward turn in the market with a fair few properties selling,” he said.
“More people coming to town, spending more money, it’s only going to have a positive effect for the Clermont community.”
However, not everyone in central Queensland is optimistic.
Grazier Peter Anderson said he feared for the groundwater at his Alpha property if other proposed mines were built in the region.
“It probably will be the start of the opening of the Galilee Basin, so therefore we are worried about the cumulative impact [on groundwater] and we want adequate monitoring in place,” he said.
“We are pretty concerned because there will be multinational miners on three sides of our property, and we don’t want to be in the situation where they’re arguing over who caused the impact … while our cattle are looking at the bottom of an empty trough.”
Mr Anderson was sceptical about the latest approvals process for the Indian mining giant.
“I hope that this approval is based on the very best science that’s available to protect our underground water — if it’s just based on a political whim because of the results of the federal election a few weeks ago, well that’ll be a pretty sad day for Queensland,” he said.
‘We’ll hold them accountable’
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said she got a phone call from Adani to discuss working together in future.
Councillor Hill said she would be lobbying to ensure the company came good on the jobs promised for the region.
“We’ll be holding them accountable to ensure that they live up to the commitment that they gave us,” Cr Hill said.
“The north has been very supportive of this project and what the Galilee means, and we’ve shown it in the ballot box — we now need that same support from Adani.”
But Cr Hill admitted the project would not be a silver bullet in providing jobs for the region.
“It’s not about that particular mine, it’s about what it means to the Galilee Basin — we have about half a dozen opportunities for mines in that basin,” Cr Hill said.
“You can imagine if there is anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people in terms of the operation of the mine, we could be looking at 6,000 to 7,000 indirect jobs, that’s a lot of jobs for the region.”
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the project would set a precedent for other mines to be built in the region.
“There will be jobs and there will be thousands, and importantly of course this mine opens the way for the other mines in the Galilee Basin to also come into production,” he said.
“There are five possible other mines — four definitely, five possibly … it’s a process that could take the next 15 years.”
‘Politicians have completely sold out’
Greens senator Larissa Waters said the Carmichael mine still had hurdles to jump through — and she would continue to fight against the project going ahead.
“Today we saw the State Government put the interests of their donors ahead of Queenslanders’ right to water,” Senator Waters said.
“This just goes to show that the politicians have completely sold out to their coal mining donors and they have betrayed Queenslanders with this decision today.
“People in central Queensland deserve jobs, but they deserve real jobs, they deserve a conversation about what sort of economy they want their region to turn into as that transition towards a clean economy continues.
“Adani have got another thing coming if they think they’ve got this sown up, they still don’t have all of their approvals.
“They still don’t have their pipeline approval, they still don’t have their railway approval, they still have some federal plans that need approval.
“We’ll keep the pressure on so that those plans don’t get just ticked and flicked like so much of this has already.”