Indian billionaire Gautam Adani is used to getting what he wants in the country. His is an admirable story of rags to riches in a single lifetime. His companies have always managed to secure the most lucrative contracts from the government and he has always been a blue eyed boy of the government machinery in that sense. The most recent one was just a few months back when Adani Enterprises won all six tenders to privately operate airports run by the Airport Authority of India. The finger has been pointed at him many a time for his proximity to the Modi government and that he secures such lucrative deals through his well placed contacts; however, such allegations have never been proved.
Moving beyond the borders of India, the group hasn’t seen such smooth sailing. Take the massive Carmichael Coal Mine project in Australia for example, which at AUD $ 2 Billion (roughly ₹ 10,000 crore) is the biggest investment by an Indian company in Australia historically, and is also the largest coal mine project in the country, which has been facing regulatory hurdles ever since its inception nine years ago. Environmental clearances, lawsuits, protests and local politics have plagued the progress of his project.
The primary concern of the locals and the government is that the coal mine project is in the city of Queensland, which is near the iconic Great Barrier Reef in Australia, which is the world’s largest coral reef system and may prove a danger to this sensitive eco system due to possible dumping of debris in the reef. Also, the project would be dependent on groundwater for its execution and the company had to come up with an effective groundwater management plan. Additionally, the Indian energy giant had to implement a plan to protect the endangered Black-Throated Finch bird population as part of its crucial environmental plan at the site of its mine project.
However, as luck would have it, or be it through perseverance, the Adani Group on Thursday won the environmental clearance and has received the last of the approvals needed to commence work on its ambitious Carmichael Coal Mine project. Preparatory activities are expected to begin immediately which include finalising contracts, mobilising equipment and recruitment which will enable it to begin construction activities including fencing, bridge and road upgrades, water management and civil works on the mine site.
Energy giant Adani Enterprises will dig up the coal mine, extract coal, transport the extracted coal via a railway line, that the company itself will build, to a point just off the coast of Queensland named Abbot Point. From Abbot Point Port the coal will be shipped to India for its final consumption.
Building this open-cut mine and railway network is expected to cost the company AUD $ 2 Billion or ₹ 10,000 crore and will deliver 1,500 direct and 6,750 indirect jobs during the construction phase and would also ensure energy security for India that would benefit from the coal supply. Coal production is expected to begin in Australia by 2021.
Adani Enetrprises has approvals to produce 60 million tonnes of thermal coal annually and initially had a plan to invest around AUD $ 16.5 Billion to achieve this level. However, due to protests over the years the company scaled down its plan and now plans to produce just 10 million tonnes of coal annually at an investment of AUD $ 2 Billion.
What is most interesting to note is that the final approval for Adani’s long delayed multi-billion dollar mega coal mine project comes just weeks after a surprise election win of Australia’s pro-coal ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that defeated the Labour Party who took a firm stand against coal and mining activities in the region.
Gautam Adani’s mysterious tryst with the administration and his ability to secure lucrative deals with a favoured government in power continues; albeit this time in Australia.