Ignored at home, Australians travel to Gujarat to protest Adani's coal mine

Mridula Chari

Cricket stars Ian and Greg Chappell have joined a growing campaign against a proposed coal mine in Australia, by Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s company.

The Chappell brothers are among 90 Australians including politicians, musicians, writers and indigenous people who have signed an open letter appealing to Adani’s conscience to abandon his proposal to dig coal in Carmichael, Queensland.

The letter says that the mine will be harmful to the environment of both India and Australia, will be a “public health disaster”, and also “does not have wide public support in Australia”. The group did not give numbers to support this last contention.

“We urge you to think about global warming and public health and listen to the wishes of the people,” the letter said. “It would be a great shame if this one project were to damage the image of India in Australia.”

A group of Australians delivered the letter to Roy Paul, Assistant General Manager of Corporate Communications of the Adani Group in Ahmedabad on Thursday afternoon. Paul was cordial but did not give any assurances, the group said.

“We have come here to represent the majority view of our people, given that our government is not listening to us,” said Imogen Zethoven of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. “We know Adani has big plans for solar in India. We would welcome that instead of a coal mine.”

Adani statement

In a statement on its website, the Adani group says that it will “undertake its Australian operations in a manner, which meets our legal obligations, recognises the importance of working closely with our internal and external stakeholders, and strives to prevent environmental harm and improve our environmental performance”.

It added: “We understand that our environmental performance is critical to the sustainable success of the organisation and we will implement an environmental management framework that is accessible, innovative and enduring.”

Meanwhile, Ian Chappell suggested in an interview to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that India’s cricketing ties with Australia might be affected if Adani were to continue with the mine.

“Cricket has a bit to do with the feeling between India and Australia,” Chappell said to the publication. “The thought that this [mine] could affect the relationship, hopefully that’ll get through.”

The Adani Group has applied for a $1 billion loan from the Australian government to build a railway line between the project site and a shipping terminal. The Australian government has given the Carmichael mine all the required approvals, while the government of Queensland has given most, but not all.

Environmental disaster

Activists and environmentalists are concerned that the coal project could lead to the death of the Great Barrier Reef, which is very close to the location of the coal deposits in Carmichael, apart from the long term health and environment implications of releasing coal from what would be the largest coal mine in Australia and among the largest in the world.

“We came all the way out here to India because we are so concerned about this coal mine,” Zethoven said. “The mine will produce 60 million tonnes of coal each year for 60 years and because of it, hundreds of coal ships will pass the Reef each year.”

The coal from this mine will supply Indian power plants, but might create anywhere between 1,500 to 10,000 jobs for Australians.

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