Adani Mining announced today that its scaled-down Carmichael mine project would proceed without any external funding. Before considering reactions, it’s important to recall causes for scepticism.
First, Adani has repeatedly announced the imminent start of the project, while doing little or nothing. It is possible that this announcement will be followed by months, or even years, of “pre-construction activity” during which the project is kept alive with minimal expenditure from Adani.
Second, the economics of the project are as bad as they have ever been. Thermal coal prices have declined in recent months, especially following China’s decision to freeze imports. If China gets through the winter without significant problems, it is likely that the decline will be permanent. Even if it isn’t, the discount on low-quality coal =of the kind found in the Galilee Basin is rising all the time.
Third, the failure to secure any external finance for the project is significant. Most of the big lenders have now sworn off thermal coal altogether, but if there were real money to be made here, some second-tier institution would probably have gone for it.
So, it would make sense to wait for a while to see what develops. Still, we need to be prepared for a decision on whether Australia is going to back a future for coal, and destruction for the global environment or a moratorium on new mines. Labor under Bill Shorten has been surprisingly brave on issues like tax, and our Trumpist government is in a complete mess. A strong stand would be a huge step towards a better future.