The Charge of the Lignite Brigade

by | Dec 5, 2016 | Energy, Government, Resources

The latest brainwave from the Federal government is to lavish a $1 billion taxpayer subsidy on a foreign billionaire to build the world’s biggest new brown coal mine.

Seven reasons why this is a breathtakingly inane idea:

1. Sheer white-elephantness: The project’s bankers have long fled the scene. Thermal coal is in structural decline. The economics don’t stack up.

Adani gilded lily is far from rolled gold

2. Tax: forget it. Adani has been raking in $150 million of earnings (EBITDA) a year from its coal-port but paid tax in only one year out of six, and very little at that.

The proposed federal loan is likely to be routed through another structure though – Adani Rail and Infrastructure – owned by an entity in the tax haven of Singapore whose ultimate parent is a personal Adani family company in the Cayman Islands. Again, forget tax.

white-ele3. Jobs: Adani’s own admitted jobs number for Carmichael is 1,464. If that same $1 billion of taxpayers’ subsidy was to finance a solar project it would create 9,000 construction jobs.

4. Water concessions: coal mining is notoriously water intensive. Another subsidy flung Adani’s way is the recent water concession by the state government.

#Adani #coal: Queensland government’s sneaky deal will not save India’s poor

Queensland doesn’t charge miners for water and Adani’s Carmichael mega-mine will be draining the bores at precisely the same time the farmers need the water most.

5. “But this is a common-use facility”: no it’s not. The NAIF proposal is for a “standard-gauge” rail-line compared with the state’s other “narrow-gauge” rail-lines which are inter-connected. This is a stand-alone thing, a stranded asset, a true white elephant.

6. “This is a nation building exercise. GVK will benefit too”: No, it’s not, and no they won’t”. GVK has a market cap of $US130 million, debts of $US3 billion and still owes Gina Rinehart $560 million before it even begins to contemplate project finance.

7. “The project will help the poor of India”: it will help poison the poor of India and cement Australia’s reputation alongside Donald Trump’s regime as the bogans, sans pareille, of world climate policy. Carmichael coal is low-energy, high-ash – not efficient but highly damaging for the environment.

Meantime, Indian Energy Minister Piyush Goyal continues to reiterate his nation’s commitment to an aggressive solar roll-out and to cease seaborne thermal coal imports by 2020. He is on track to achieve this.

There is little flesh around the proposal. Apart from a leak to Rupert Murdoch’s Courier Mail newspaper – glowing coverage by one billionaire tax scoundrel and fossil-fuel champion for another – not much more has been said.

Adani loses Liberals but gaining Labor?



Michael West

Michael West

Michael West established to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.


  1. Avatar

    We really have become the Banana republic. That said, I wouldn’t expect the mine to get up even after subsidies, the mini boom in thermal coal hasn’t got much left in it. This has far more to do with holding onto voters in areas where unemployment is rife and where the main parties are haemorrhaging support.

  2. Avatar

    Great work!
    This is the first article I have read that points out that the Galillee Basin is a brown coal deposit. I have been directing everyone to this

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