The Adani mine was a key factor in the government’s election win. Now what?

The Adani mine has been in the headlines for almost a decade. SBS News looks back at the controversial project's origins.

The Adani mine is among the many issues being credited for handing the Coalition the reins of government for another three years following the surprising 2019 federal election result.

The Queensland state government is now scrambling to finalise the project, apparently fearful the electoral backlash against federal Labor could have a flow-on effect.

So, how did we get here?

What is the Adani mine?

Adani is an Indian multinational company, with businesses around the world in sectors such as energy, resources and agribusiness.

In 2010, then-Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced Adani had proposed to establish a coal mine in the Galilee Basin.

The coal would supply Indian power plants and generate electricity for millions of people.

A image supplied by Adani.
Source: Adani

Production was meant to commence in 2014, with an initial output of 2 million tonnes per annum, rising to 60 million tonnes per annum in 2022.

At that rate, it was to be the largest coal mine in Australia.

Ms Bligh said the project was to undergo a major environmental assessment to investigate "any potential environmental, economic or social impacts of the proposed project".

And that's when it got complicated.

Who opposes the mine?

The project saw immediate backlash from environmental groups and large-scale public protests and online campaigns have continued since 2010.

"If it goes ahead, Adani's mine and its coal will wreck our climate, steal our groundwater, trash Indigenous rights and irreversibly damage the Great Barrier Reef," material from the Australian Conservation Foundation says.

"Adani's mine would drain billions of litres of groundwater at a time when Queensland farmers and wildlife suffer in a severe drought.

"Adani wants to dig millions of truckloads of coal out of the earth, burn the coal, release massive amounts of climate pollution into the air, which would contribute to more savage droughts, fires and floods."

Over the years, the project also jumped through many bureaucratic hoops.

The Queensland government gave preliminary approval to the project in 2014, before the federal government gave approval for the mine to proceed months later.

A Stop Adani protest outside Parliament House in Canberra.
Source: AAP

But in 2015, the federal court set aside the approval as the federal government had not considered advice about vulnerable species in the area: the yakka skink and the ornamental snake.

After the court decision, the federal government then gave it re-approval.

There have been a series of other court cases around the mine, including bids from environmental groups and Queensland Indigenous traditional owners to stop the project.

Where are we now?

Over the years, Adani has revised the size of the mine down.

The mine is expected to begin on a small scale and later "ramp up" to a first stage capacity of 27.5 million tonnes a year.

In an interview with SBS Punjabi, Adani CEO Jeyakumar Janakraj said, "there is a need for energy poverty to be alleviated in India and in Asian countries".

"And the mine will provide thousands of jobs in northern Queensland. The benefits far outweigh the other side [which is] in opposition," he said.

The company's plan to manage groundwater was approved in early 2019, taking it a step closer to operation.

But environmental group Lock the Gate Alliance argued rubber-stamping plans weeks from the federal election meant the approvals were compromised.

"There has been blatant political interference in relation to this issue over the last week, with LNP threats against the environment minister and hurried meetings between the Adani CEO with the prime minister," spokeswoman Carmel Flint said.

It's now up to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's government to approve the groundwater plan, and other plans, including one to manage the tiny and endangered black-throated finch.

As southern black-throated finch.
Source: AAP

But Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch insists there will be no rushing this step and there is no time frame for approval.

Meanwhile, activists have also indicated they will go after those funding the mine.

"While many of the approvals have been granted, Adani still needs to find funding for this project," Greenpeace material claims.

"And this is where the movement can get them. Public opposition made some of the world's largest banks, including Australia's four biggest banks, pull out of the project."

How Adani affected the 2019 election

Queensland was one of the key states where the Coalition thrived in the 2019 federal election - and the Adani mine was credited with boosting its support.

Labor was severely punished by regional Queenslanders at the election - losing two seats in the north of the state.

Its mixed messaging on the project was blamed for the electoral backlash, with some Labor insiders saying the party didn't do enough to convince voters it was pro-coal.

Added to this, Labor's chances were not helped by a convoy of Greens leaders who drove from the south to Clermont to protest against the mine - prompting a backlash from locals who were fed up with being told what to think and do from southerners. 

Also during the campaign, protesters disrupted a speech by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, shouting "this will be a climate election".

A Stop Adani protester takes to the stage where Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Source: AAP

What now?

Having heard the voters' message, the Queensland government is now scrambling to grant bird and water management approvals to the controversial mine following months of delays.

Queensland's Coordinator-General has been reeled in to oversee the remaining approvals.

Only days after the election, Ms Palaszczuk said she was "fed-up" with delays within her own government.

“The federal election was definitely a wake-up call to everyone,” Ms Palaszczuk said. “I hear that message."

Additional reporting: AAP

Published 11 April 2019 at 5:50pm, updated 23 May 2019 at 1:22pm
By Nick Baker, Rashida Yosufzai