Adani chairman says he believes in climate change but coal will help India

The chairman of Adani Group has defended the plan to build one of the world's largest coal mines in Queensland, which he says is driven by his "will to win".

The chairman of Indian conglomerate Adani has defended company’s plan to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in Australia and said he would not be swayed by what he called “vicious personal attacks”.

In a rare speech, Gautam Adani told business students he believed in climate change, but coal would help 300 million people in India with no access to electricity.

The debate over the mine in Queensland was a key focus of last year’s state election and has been flagged by federal Labor as a key issue in a looming by-election.

In Canberra, anti-Adani coal mine campaigners were again in the national spotlight on the first day of federal parliament.

The protesters say they have no plans to surrender and neither does the man behind the proposed Carmichael coal mine.

“It is my power of purpose that keeps alive my will to win,” the Adani Group chairman said. 

“Never let criticism derail your purpose or promise,” he advised students at the Shri Ram College of Commerce Business Conclave.

One of India’s richest men, Mr Adani told students his feelings were hurt by the criticism. 

“In recent years our project has faced intense resistance abetted by some intentional non-government organisations and competitors who have turned to vicious personal attacks and used the press to their advantage,” he said.

Protesters hold signs and banners at a Stop Adani Mine rally on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, February 5, 2018.
Source: AAP

Adani’s planned $16b Carmichael coal mine in Queensland will be one of the world’s largest and has been widely criticised for its potentially huge impact on climate change.

“Gautam Adani is having a bit of a whinge, or a bit of a sook as we say here,” Ben Pennings, spokesman for the Galilee Blockade and #StopAdani campaign said. 

“He’s invested a couple of billion dollars in a dying industry and he wants Australian taxpayers to bail him out.”

Outside federal parliament, costumed figures with large heads of Mr Adani, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk danced with a bag inscribed, “Your taxes $1bn”.

“There is no scientific reason, none, why you would ever open a new coal mine,” Will Steffen from the Climate Council told protesters.

Also inside parliament, the Adani debate was back on the agenda, with the Greens leader Senator Richard DiNatale challenging the government over the coal mine.

“On the Coalition side of the Senate we do support it but I’m not so sure about the Labor party, the Batman by-election might have something to do with it,” said Leader of the Government in the Senate Senator Mathias Cormann.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten last week appeared to turn Adani-sceptic as Labor prepares to defend the marginal inner-Melbourne seat of Batman from the Greens in the by-election.

Queensland’s premier secured victory in the state election in November after promising to veto $1b in taxpayers money for the Adani mine’s rail line.

Anti-Adani protestors outside federal parliament in Canberra.
Source: SBS

In his speech, Mr Adani said coal power generation is for the Indian national good while being one of the world’s lowest per capita carbon emitters.

“I will be the first to agree that global warming is a challenge we have to tackle and cleaner energy is critical, however, it is possible to believe in both coal and renewables,” he said.

“It is our responsibility to guide electricity to the Indian child who needs to light the single bulb to educate himself.

“What the critics don’t mention is in the span of two years we have become the country’s largest renewable power player.

“We have lined up $15b investment in a greenfield venture in Australia to mine and transport coal,” he said.

Adani has not provided details of having secured funding and did not respond to SBS inquiries.

“Adani is quite big in renewables in India, they make money out of renewables and they lose money in coal, but they invested a couple of billion at the top of the coal cycle and now they’re scared of losing it,” Mr Pennings claimed. 

“Adani don’t have funding for the mine in Australia, they don’t have an Indigenous land use agreement, and they don’t have the support of the Australian people, so they don’t have a social license, so they’ve been talking about getting money but it still hasn’t happened”.

Gautam Adani, Chairman of the Adani Group during a press conference at a press conference in Mumbai.
Source: Getty

Published 5 February 2018 at 8:29pm, updated 5 February 2018 at 8:35pm
By Stefan Armbruster