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International resource companies vie for Australia’s coal

By Pascal Derungs

The Swiss commodity giant “Glencore” and the Indian company “Adani” want to drive coal production in Australia to new record levels.

This is documented in a report by the human rights organization “Public Eye” in the online magazine of Jan. 2023. Infosperber summarizes the most important facts and findings from it below.

Thanks to the energy crisis, the market for coal is booming

The Adani Group plans to expand the Carmichael mine in northeastern Australian Queensland into one of the largest coal mines in the world.

Company CEO Gautam Adani has become the world’s third richest man (US$142.4 billion in assets as of mid-November 2022) thanks to the coal boom.

Adani controls one-third of India’s coal imports.

As The New Yorker magazine reported in Nov. 2022, the corporation is known in its homeland for dragging down villages and clearing forests to dig massive coal mines.

In April 2020, the Indian group set up a trading arm in Geneva through a local trust company to organize the sale of its coal.

According to the specialized platform “Global Coal Mine Tracker”, the Indian coal king Adani is a multinational with the most plans to open new coal mines worldwide, with 60 projects behind “Coal India”.

The raw materials multinational “Glencore”, headquartered in Switzerland, ranks sixth in this list with 37 projects.

Resource companies vie for Australia's coal. (Photo internet reproduction)
Resource companies vie for Australia’s coal. (Photo internet reproduction)


Australia has the third-largest coal reserves in the world. That would be enough to continue producing for another four centuries.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Australian coal will trade three times the average price of the last ten years.

These are profitable prospects for further investment in coal mining.

The state and Queensland governments are offering mining companies a hand to mine and export another 400 million tons of coal. One hundred twenty billion Australian dollars (US$85 billion) in revenues beckon.

The thermal coal will be burned mainly in Indian, Chinese, and Korean power plants nearly 10,000 kilometers away.

Australia’s leading coal producer is the Switzerland-based “Glencore” group, with 15 mines. This accounts for two-thirds of its production.

Together with “Adani” and its Australian, Chinese, and Japanese competitors, it forms a robust and influential network with the best connections in the media and politics.


In Queensland, the coal lobby claims to contribute 58.8 billion Australian dollars to the local economy and to create 292,000 jobs, 35,000 of them direct.

The population in the rural inland areas is very dependent on these jobs. Besides agriculture, mining is almost the only source of income.

In 2019, the local government of Queensland took away the property rights of the indigenous communities and gave them to the mining companies.

Since then, these have treated the Aborigines like intruders, reports “Public Eye” in its report.

In April 2020, “Glencore” submitted permit applications for Australia’s largest mine: six coal shafts with a production of 20 million tons annually. Code name: “Valeria Project.”

Construction starts in 2024. Duration: 30 months, including the associated rail and power infrastructure construction.

The whole thing is to be usable for 37 years.

That’s well after 2050 when the Swiss group aims to achieve net zero emissions. According to Public Eye, Glencore said in early Dec. 2022 that it had downgraded the Valeria project, which is currently “under review”.


Among Australia’s most environmentally damaging open-pit mines is “Hail Creek,” in which Glencore acquired a majority stake in 2018.

The production volume is around 7 million tons. Satellite images show that the mine leaks more than ten times as much methane as Glencore has reported to regulators.

Ecological criticism in Australia no longer focuses on coal combustion but instead on the environmental impact of extraction and processing.

Among them is methane, a potent greenhouse gas released during coal mining. It is 82 times more powerful than CO₂.

According to one of the latest reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is believed responsible for a 0.5-degree rise in global temperatures over the past 100 years.

Coal. (Photo internet reproduction)
Coal. (Photo internet reproduction)

Australia, an industrialized country, is the world’s most vulnerable to climate disasters such as rising sea levels and forest fires.

That’s why methane emissions have become a central point of contention. Matthew Currell, a professor of environmental engineering at “RMIT University,” is also concerned about allowing coal producers to exploit water resources in Australia’s semi-desert areas.

“The Queensland government has granted Adani a license to pump as much groundwater as it wants.

But there has been no serious environmental impact assessment,” Currell tells Public Eye. Most coal export occurs via ship terminals near the Great Barrier Reef.

This has put additional pressure on the world’s largest coral reef, a Unesco World Heritage Site, since 1981.

It is being battered by increasingly violent cyclones and accelerated coral bleaching.

In May 2022, 91% of the reefs were affected by a prolonged heat wave, according to a government report.

It was the fourth since 2016.

This post was published first here.

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