Say What Wednesday

Adani Coal Mine; we dig deeper and look more closely at the pros and cons

Welcome to Say What Wednesday. Today’s question is from our listener, Sam.

“Hi Louis, love the podcast! I’m wondering if you could do an episode on Adani. I’ve seen lots of protests over this and am just wondering what your thoughts are?

Why are people so opposed to it? Seen the school kids striking or the media saying it will be the end of the world?”

A wide range of groups are opposed to the project for different reasons – So let us go through each one in detail – not platitudes

Let’s get into it!

What is it? – Adani Group is an Indian multinational conglomerate – diverse businesses include energy, resources, logistics, agribusiness, real estate, financial services, and defence and aerospace.

  1. Carmichael Mine in QLD – Adani has said that over a 60-year lifetime, the company expects to extract 2.3bn tonnes of coal, which would make it equivalent to the biggest mine in the US.
  2. Six open-cut pits as well as five underground mines – area more than 30km long.
    • first mine in the giant untapped Galilee coal basin – production rate of 25m tonnes a year (originally 60m)


Opposition to the mine present climate and environmental claims

Climate: “Average emissions from burning the coal extracted will amount to about 77m tonnes of CO2 each year.”

  1. That is the CO2 from burning it – Not the extraction – This coal will mostly be exported to India
  2. But why are CO2 emissions such a big deal? – The worry is that CO2 emissions are leading to climate change and global warming – “keep less than 2C – 90% of coal reserves need to stay in the ground”
  3. Question: Are CO2 emissions bad? If they are, how are they bad?
    • To remove all carbon – Everything dies!
    • Forgotten fact – inhaled air/atmosphere is 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, <1% argon, CO2, neon, helium, hydrogen.
    • But we exhaled 5% by volume of CO2 = 100-fold increase – We breath out about 1kg of CO2 a day
      • Aus Population breathing = 9.5m tonnes of CO2 p.a. – Almost everything we do increases CO2
    • Plants need it! Randall Donohue – CSIRO: Plants build their tissues by using photosynthesis to take carbon from the air around them.
      • More CO2 = more vigorous plant growth – carbon dioxide fertilization effect = 11 percent increase in global foliage since 1982 (discounting rainfall and other influences).
      • Negative feedback – increasing levels of CO2 = extra plant growth.
        • Global greening trend observed by satellites, and the growing global land carbon sink which removes about one-third of all CO₂ emissions generated by human activities
      • Great news for biodiversity, and good news for food security: plants are the primary producers that feed all animals – tree deep roots tap groundwater and at the same time stabilize the soils.
    • Looking through history – Millions of years ago much higher CO2 – why everything (dinosaurs, plants) bigger
      • Volcanoes release around 650m tonnes of CO2 p.a. passively
  4. As more plants grow – less CO2 as it is reabsorbed
    • Rules of thermodynamics being ignored in modelling – Why no model has ever been correct
      • Did basic thermodynamics at Uni (shout out to ENGG1500 UQ) – Negative feedback entropy
    • Went from Global Cooling (globe was cooling until the by 0.2C until the 1980s), global warming, now climate change
  5. Assume the worst – the planet is warming and seas are rising (getting a larger surface area) – the natural result is MORE precipitation = the replenishment of the ice caps, glaciers plus deserts turning to tropical forests as the Sahara once was

Points to consider

  1. How to solve: Carbon Capture and storage Technology – Modern day coal power plants pollute less than older designs due to new “scrubber” technologies that filter the exhaust air in smoke stacks (John Ondov, 1979)
    • Client – Works in Paris on this technology – reduces emissions significantly
  2. This is such a complicated topic with multivariant – I will come back to it – But for now put a pin in it to get on with others
    • I will do a whole other episode on the history of climate change movement – agencies mandates are only allowed to explore the ‘risk of human induced climate change’ – That is why everything points to us as the problem
      • Massive risk – If it isn’t us, then we may be going through all of this in vain
      • Global Warming could have many causes – The Sun for instance! And how close we are to it changes over time
    • I’m not denying the climate is changing, as it has always changed and always will
      • Data from 400k years – Higher CO2 and Temp 325k, 240k, 125k, back there now
      • Only focusing on one explanation is very irresponsible – plus only using a short timeframe – when trading a share you look at historical influences and data, and not current market data
      • Why was everything bigger millions of years ago? More CO2 and higher temps
    • I’ll break down every other explanation in another episode – LOD, Solar Flares, Natural Cycles, UV waves, etc.
      • Talk about the economic incentives of the policies as well – no better way to get a global tax on people
      • Agencies doing the research (IPCC) – Mandated to assess the risk of human-induced climate change
    • Remember – world to gets colder, crops fail, prices rise, and economy declines. The last time – Little Ice Age in the 1600s. When the planet gets warmer, the planet tends to do better.


Water: Environmental concerns with the mine is its reliance on water.

  1. Coal mining uses a lot of water – cooling cutting equipment, transporting coal as a slurry in pipelines. About 250 litres of freshwater is used for each tonne of coal produced.
    • Estimates – 15 to 300 Litres of water per litre of beer produced (including crops) – I guess activists like beer too much
  2. QLD government granted Adani water licence to extract unlimited amounts from the underground Great Artesian Basin
  3. Estimates of 12bn litres of water a year used in the mine – Sounds like a lot, but what is the Great Artesian Basin (GAB)?
    • The Basin underlies 22% of the continent, including most of QLD, the south-east corner of NT, the north-east part of SA, and northern parts of NSW – Formed by sediment when Aus was covered in water creating Permeable stone
      • Sandstone is permeable – Rains, Water drains through – Basin is formed from rainfall being absorbed
    • The basin is 3,000 metres deep in places and is estimated to contain 64,900 cubic kilometres
      • 65,000 million mega litres (mega litre = 1 million litres) – Enough to cover all the land on the planet in half a meter of water – What effect will Adani Have?
      • Assumption – That the reserve doesn’t ever get any more water in it – Uses 0.000018% of the reserve a year = 5.5m years to fully deplete it
  4. Will it replenish? – CSIRO Study – By 2070, areas of the Basin in NSW and QLD are predicted to have increased groundwater levels. Western Basin in NT will likely have lower groundwater levels – result of very long-term natural decline.
    • Rates of recharge on the western side are naturally low – But aquifers are replenished by groundwater flowing from east to west
  5. Even with Adani – The basin is still meant to increase in water reserves over the next 50 years
    • Past 120 years of use from all sources has used 0.1% of the reserve
  6. It is better to use water in coal mining than not – Helps remove toxins from the coal before burning, manages dust and particles from being spread – Which would be worse for the environment

Impacts on the Great Barrier Reef:

Environmental groups have worked hard to link the development of the Carmichael mine to the destruction of the reef”

  1. The Claim – “Scientists have said that for coral reefs to have any chance of a future, global warming must be stopped at 1.5C”
  2. The concerns are about coral Bleaching – What is bleaching – corals get stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white.
  3. Warmer or colder water temperatures can result in coral bleaching – expel the algae living in their tissues
    • When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality
  4. The Great Barrier Reef along the coast of Australia experienced bleaching events in 1980, 1982, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, Decade Gap! then 2016 and 2017 –
  5. Not all bleaching events are due to warm water – 2010, cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event
  6. Coral populations on the Great Barrier Reef had declined by 50.7% from 1985 to 2012, but with only about 10% of that decline attributable to bleaching, and the remaining 90% caused about equally by tropical cyclones and by predation by crown-of-thorns starfishes – Australian Institute of Marine Science, 2012
  7. “Development of port for export of coal which will involve dredging – problematic for coral as it stirs up sediment, which starves coral of sunlight”
    • But a cause of bleaching is solar irradiance (higher UV light) – Everything contradicts
  8. Founder of Greenpeace – Dr Patrick Moore – left as it was hijacked by non-scientists and political activists
    • Sick of non-scientists being activists – points out that a lot of coral bleached survives, if it dies, it regrows


Side note: Lower Coal Prices – Infrastructure Fund Report – (own Aus Coal Mines, grain of salt) – found coal-producing basins in NSW and SEQ would cut their production by more than a third, due to a drop in coal prices – No longer profitable

  1. There is the solution for reducing coal – Make it unprofitable and lower emissions?


These are the three major points against the mine – Are there any benefits?

Jobs: Queensland’s unemployment rate is at 6.4% (higher in regional areas).

  1. 15,000 to 10,000 jobs, as Adani, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and others have said the project will provide, are a strong motivation to support the project.
  2. Jerome Fahrer from ACIL Allen Consulting submitted an analysis on behalf of Adani estimating the project would create just 1,464 jobs.


Economic Growth (GDP): $930 million to Mackay region’s GDP and $3bn to the Queensland p.a. for 60 years.

  1. the 4 billion tonnes of coal resource extracted over its lifetime would be worth $300 billion.
  2. In QLD we need some real economic growth – Not just from borrowing
    • QLD debt to go to $83bn over next 3 years – While NSW is in $4bn surplus


Biggest: Alleviating poverty:  Coal from Adani’s mine will help lift people in India out of poverty – used to generate electricity in a country where many people have no access to power

  1. 80m Indians don’t have power – Power is the foundation of modern-day – Economy in the stone age without it
  2. We forget we have gone throughout industrial revolutions
    • London, NY – Back in the 1900s – Very dirty – Is the
    • We were the first to dirty up the place in industrialisation
    • What actually lead to having a cleaner environment? The debate between Government Regulation and Free Market
    • Free Market – Incentivised



  1. We should focus on less pollution – But protesting and striking is not the answer – Renewals would be great –
    • Using Kids to push this political agenda is bad as well
    • Seems like everyone wants for other people to do things – But they had plastic/cardboard signs, water bottles, took transport to get there
  2. Virtue signalling doesn’t help the issue – Plus – Forgetting the millions of people that this could actually help
  3. Thanks, Sam – We will do another episode surrounding climate change. There is a lot to cover there.


For those who are interested in an economic analysis of the Carmichael mine the link below, from ACIL Allen Consulting, provides this.

Some reading for those interested in learning more about coral bleaching, coral destruction specifically related tot eh Great Barrier reef.

For those who want to get in contact with the podcast you can do so on the contact page.


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