Australia’s Carmichael coal mine project has been under major scrutiny by large conservation groups and prominent Australians for months. Now, progressive think tank the Australia Institute has found just how damaging the emissions from burning coal at the mine could really be.
The coal mine project, which is a backed by India’s Adani Enterprises and approved by the Australian government in October, has the potential to out-weigh annual emissions from entire cities and countries, according to a new report by the Australia Institute. According to the report, Carmichael will emit 79 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year — more than the annual emissions from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and about equal to the average annual emissions from both Malaysia and Austria. The projects will also emit three times as much carbon dioxide equivalent per year as the city of New Delhi, six times as much as Amsterdam, and twice as much as Tokyo.
The report also puts the project’s size in perspective.
“The mine pits themselves would be 40 km [24.85 miles] long and 10 km [6.2 miles] wide, bigger than many capital cities,” the authors write in the report. “At peak capacity the mine would output 60 million [metric tons] of thermal coal per year. Adani expects Carmichael will output 2.3 billion [metric tons] of coal over its lifetime: enough to build a road one-meter thick, ten-meters wide, wrapped around the world five times.”
Environmentalists have previously said the increase in coal shipping that the mine will spur threatens the Great Barrier Reef, and the emissions that will come from burning the coal will contribute to the ocean warming and acidification that’s already threatening the suffering reef. Last week the Australian Conservation Foundation launched legal action against Australia’s environment minister, Greg Hunt, in an attempt to have the decision declared illegal. The group claims that Hunt didn’t consider the impacts the mine would have on the reef before approving it.
This is not the first time the coal mine project has faced legal challenges. This past August the project’s original approval was overturned in court, only to be re-approved by Hunt in mid-October. The project now includes 36 “of the strictest conditions in Australian history,” including groundwater monitoring requirements, species protection, conservation research funding, and other provisions in an attempt to protect the area subjected to the coal mine’s impacts.
The mine would be located in central Queensland, and most of its coal would be purchased by India — a country that’s third in the world in terms of carbon emissions. The Adani Group’s job-boasting advertisements have also been challenged by experts — Adani’s own economic consultant has said that the project would only create 1,464 net jobs, and not 10,000 as Adani has claimed. The economic benefits have also been questioned, considering coal prices have dropped 52 percent within the last four years.
In its report, the Australia Institute warns of the setbacks the coal mine would have on international progress on climate change.
“With the international community grappling with the urgent demand for coordinated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Adani’s coal mine threatens to undermine the effectiveness of nation’s climate mitigation strategies,” the report’s authors write. “To maximise the international community’s likelihood for success on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Carmichael’s coal product must remain unburnt.”