Gautam Adani’s controversial mining and rail project in Queensland, Australia is once again hogging the headlines in that country’s newspapers since yesterday.
This time the news peg is the government considering funding an estimated 100 million dollars for a road project, despite Adani having committed to build it through his own funds and the government having assured its citizens that no taxpayer funds would go into the project.
Energy and Resource Insights (ERI), an Australian specialist consultancy and research firm, which provides analysis of Australia’s resource and energy sectors, sought information from Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads, under Australia’s Freedom of Information law. Details that the ERI sought, were all documents related to state government funding of the upgrade of the Elgin-Moray Road and the Moray-Carmichael Road, required for accessibility to Adani’s Carmichael Mine and Rail Project. The period of information sought was from 1 January 2017 to 15 November 2017.
The information put on its website energyresourceinsights.com states that, ``in order for the mine to be constructed these roads need to be upgraded to a sealed, single lane carriageway. During the Carmichael mine project assessment process, Adani made a commitment to do this work. In his 2014 report, the Queensland Coordinator General provided the recommended conditions for the approval of the project under the Transport Infrastructure Act 1994, in which he noted the Adani commitment to upgrade the road at his own expense. The cost of this road is between 60-100 million dollars.’’
In its reply, the Department stated that it had over 2,200 pages of relevant documents including over 650 pages of drawings and specifications and over 1,400 pages of email correspondence. Since this would cost a whopping $2,000 or more as processing fee, the ERI refined the request to the quantum of the potential funding; the source of the potential funding; the method by which the potential funding would be provided and; any terms or conditions associated with the potential funding. Documents revealed that in April 2018 the Queensland government is still actively considering funding the $60-100million road upgrade.
The website stopadani.com is of the Queensland Mackay Conservation Group NGO which is furious at this revelation. The NGO has been opposing Adan’s projects in Australia, tooth and nail, as it alleges that “Adani Group companies have an appalling record of environmental destruction and prosecutions overseas, including illegal dealings, bribery, environmental and social devastation and allegations of corruption, fraud and money laundering.’’ The members of this NGO called on Premier Palaszczuk on 6th June, ``noting that dedicating public funds to the coal project would break her election promise.’’
Mackay Conservation Group community organiser Maggie McKeown said, “Yet again the Queensland government is actively considering giving Adani handouts to build a mine that the majority of Queenslanders do not want. The Queensland Coordinator General recommended Adani be responsible for road upgrades and Adani said it would pay for the upgrade. Why then would the Premier spend public funds on this project?
“Polls show that seven out of ten Queenslanders say Adani should fund its own project rather than expect a taxpayer subsidy. Queenslanders want public money spent on schools, hospitals and large-scale renewable energy projects. They quite rightly do not support their taxes being used to maximise the profits of an overseas mining billionaire.
“Adani has received special deals from all levels of government. The Palaszczuk government has been the biggest offender, offering cut price royalties, a license to take unlimited groundwater for 60 years and a license to pollute at Abbot Point Coal Terminal during Cyclone Debbie. “Enough is enough. The Premier must today rule out this latest leg up, using taxpayers’ money,” Ms McKeown said.
From the limited information contained in the released documents it’s possible to glean that:
·Significant discussions occurred relating to the road between the Coordinator General and his deputy and various staff from TMR on the issue.
·An email from the assistant Coordinator General, Kerry Smeltzer, notes that an action point resulting from a meeting between her and TMR and Isaac Regional Council is “Discuss funding arrangements with QTRIP” [Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program] (RTI pdf page 7)
·A separate email chain within TMR from February 2017, also heavily redacted, includes contributions from Cathy Currier the A/Director (Investment Funding) within Portfolio Investment & Programming in the department.
·Later emails from March 2017 involved correspondence with Co-ordinator General, Barry Broe, himself.
·Documents related to the CBRC were generated between March and July.
· Emails in July begin discussing the “Galilee Basin Access Road – Information on Likely Cost and Realistic Delivery Schedule” and include attachments with filenames such as “Preconstruction Schedule – v5.pdf ”.
· A draft email intended for the Director General of TMR, Neil Scales, dated 5th July 2017 from Deputy Director General Sally Noonan
“I have had a number of discussions with the Premier’s and Treasurer’s offices over the last 48 hours with regard to options for the Queensland Government to facilitate development of the Galilee Basin. Primarily, the discussions are about road access to the Adani Mining Carmichael Coal Project.”
“TMR has no funding or planning for upgrading the Moray – Carmichael Road or building road infrastructure to open up the Galilee Basin in its current Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program.”
·Cabinet deliberation related documents appear to have been generated between July and September 4.
· An email of dot points, possibly for a briefing paper dated 4 September, includes the following:
TMR has no funding or planning for upgrading the Moray-Carmichael Road or building road infrastructure to open up the Galilee Basin in its current Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program. TMR also has no funding for ongoing maintenance for this road.
·An email dated Tuesday, 19 September 2017 had as its subject:
Subject: FW: IRC Meeting with Director-General, Office of the Premier and Cabinet, Director-General DTMR & Coordinator-General Re: Designation of Access Road to the Proposed Carmichael Mine as a State Controlled Road The email notes that a meeting with Adani is due to occur on the 21st September 2017
· A document titled “Adani Projects – Actions progress table” from 19 September 2017 includes as a topic “Investigating options for funding / upgrading Carmichael – Moray Rd”.
· On the 21st September TMR staff were discussing “Adani road estimates – Further Update”.
· It is noteworthy that emails from both the Co-ordinator General, Barry Broe, and the Assistant Coordinator-General, Kerry Smeltzer, were identified as within the scope of the Right To Information request to TMR. Yet a separate, identical, request made to their department by ERI was knocked back on the grounds that “there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the requested documents are in the possession or under the control of the department.”
(This article is based on the information provided in Energy and Resource Insights (ERI)’s website energyresourceinsights.com and www.stopadani.com
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005, and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book, “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte”, with Vinita Kamte, and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”