Joseph Milton


Joe Milton is an evolutionary biologist who, after studying the evolution of plants for ten years at various Scottish universities, made a move into journalism. Since then he has written for the Financial Times, Nature and New Scientist, among others. Joe joined the London Science Media Centre in 2010, where he was Senior Press Officer for Mental Health, before taking up the position of Senior Media Officer at the Australian Science Media Centre in July 2012.


After the approval of the Adani coal mine, experts are questioning its financial and environmental viability.


Adani coal mine Carmichael Queensland

The Adani Carmichael coal mine site in Queensland. Credit: Twitter: @mattjcan


This week, Indian mining firm Adani was given the final go-ahead for the Carmichael coal mine by the Queensland Government.


With this approval, Adani has permission to begin building its controversial mine in the north of the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland.


But many have questioned the financial viability of opening a coal mine now, just as many countries around the world begin to transition from fossil fuels to renewables for power generation, as international attempts to curb climate change ramp up.


Ongoing costs to the people of Queensland


Liam Wagner from Griffiths University says that the risks associated with the mine’s viability will be underwritten.


“The mine could still cost the people of Queensland, as the only path to its future viability will require long royalty holidays, infrastructure subsidies and uncertainty over its labour requirements.”


“These risks associated with its viability will be underwritten by the state as the Carmichael mine’s production will continue to be uncompetitive as world thermal coal prices continue to fall below US$90/tonne,” he adds.


However, Peter Newman from Curtin University says that doubts remain about whether the mine will go ahead at all, even following this approval.


“Adani will never happen. Government approval does not mean they have a marketable product.”


Flies in the face of Paris commitments


In addition to concerns about finances, many experts believe the decision flies in the face of Australia’s commitments under the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which we signed in 2016.


Tim Stephen from the University of Sydney says that the mine with will accelerate a climate breakdown.


“The mine will further accelerate climate breakdown at a time when what is urgently needed is rapid and deep decarbonisation.”


“Energy Minister Angus Taylor should explains how a large increase in Australia’s coal exports is consistent with our stated commitment to the Paris Agreement and its goals to keep the increase in global average temperatures below 1.5°C,” he adds, suggesting a moratorium should be enforced on opening new coal developments.


Experts unconvinced that scientific evidence has been taken into account


The Queensland Government has stated that scientific evidence was taken into account when the decision was made, but not all the experts contacted by the AusSMC were convinced by that claim.


Some experts felt the government was right in taking political factors into account as well as the science.


This decision highlights the need to consider impacts on jobs and livelihoods of decisions not to approve such developments,” says the University of Newcastle’s Will Rifkin. “These trade-offs are difficult to make, and that has led to careful scrutiny, wariness of political ramifications, and delays. The Adani case suggests that we may need better ways to make such tough decisions.”


You can read all the expert reactions here.


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