Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, Queensland, Australia

Australia's largest coal mine has been approved. It is being contested by environment groups and the Wangan and Jagalingou People for its impacts to cultural heritage, land, water, vulnerable species, climate change and the Great Barrier Reef.


Adani Mining Pty Ltd, an Australian subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Limited, India, has approval to build the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland, Australia. The thermal coal mine, if completed, will be Australia’s largest coal mine, and one of the largest coal mines in the world [1]. It will include open cut and underground coal mining and associated mine processing facilities and produce 60 million tonnes of coal per annum (Mtpa) and 4.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions [1]. The coal will initially be transported via a private rail line connecting the mine to Moranbah. From there it will be transported via the existing public rail line to the coal terminal facilities at the Port of Abbot Point and/or the Port of Hay Point (Dudgeon Point expansion), where it will be exported to India to meet the country’s demand for coal. The project is expected to have an operating life of approximately 90 years [2]. The Federal and Queensland state governments support the coal mine on the basis of economic growth and job creation, regardless of the depressed coal market that is seeing declining revenues and coal volumes. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that “Australia's seaborne thermal coal sector is in serious structural decline. This is not cyclical” [3]. The proposal has also been approved in the context of global commitments to address climate change. There is strong opposition to the project from environmental groups on the basis of climate change and impacts on the local and regional environment and threatened species and the Great Barrier Reef. The project was initially approved in October 2015, and then delayed due to a successful legal challenge by the Mackay Conservation Group based on protections of the vulnerable Yakka Skink and Ornamental Snake; a challenge from the Land Services of Coast and Country based on impacts on groundwater and groundwater dependent ecosystems, biodiversity and particularly the Black-throated Finch, contribution to climate change, and that the mine is not viable and contrary to public interest [1]; and the Australian Conservation Foundation regarding the conflict between approving the mine and the Federal government’s obligation to protect the Great Barrier Reef [3]. The Wangan and Jagalingou People registered a claim for native title in 2004 and the land within the claim is affected by the proposal. Adani is therefore required to consult with the Wangan and Jagalingou People, however the Wangan and Jagalingou People have rejected the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) proposed by Adani. The mine has still been approved under the Native Title Act, and the Wangan and Jagalingou People are appealing this in the high court [1]. At this stage, the project is approved and has been deferred until 2017 [4].

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Basic Data
NameCarmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, Queensland, Australia
SiteMine: Galilee Basin, 160 km north-west of Clermont. Rail Project: From the mine to Moranbah
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Coal extraction and processing
Specific CommoditiesCoal
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) [1] reports that the mine and onsite infrastructure includes:

- Open cut mine: 16 open cut pits will be progressively mined to produce approximately 40 Mtpa

- Underground mine: The underground mine will comprise three independent underground longwall mines, producing approximately 20 Mtpa

- Mine Infrastructure Area (MIA), including the rail balloon loop

- Out of pit waste dumps will receive overburden from mining, and overburden will be profiled and rehabilitated

- Mine water management dams

- Offsite infrastructure including workers accommodation of up to 2,000 beds and associated facilities, permanent airport and offsite water supply infrastructure

- Rail project: Track length of 189km
Project Area (in hectares)44,700
Level of Investment (in USD)The EIS [2] reports that the capital investment for the life of the mine is expected to total $21.5 billion
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date22/10/2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesAdani Mining Pvt Ltd from India - Proponent
Relevant government actors- Queensland State Government Departments

- Federal Government Department of the Environment
International and Financial InstitutionsAdani Enterprises Limited, India from India - Parent company of Adani Mining Pty Ltd
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters- Environmental Defenders Office QLD,

- Land Services of Coast and Country Inc (LSCC)

- Mackay Conservation Group,

- Australian Conservation Foundation,

- Greenpeace,
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Wangan and Jagalingou People
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Global warming, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
OtherThe EIS [2] lists:

o “Loss of remnant vegetation in the form of REs, flora habitat and vegetation community extents

o Loss of habitat (roosting, shelter, foraging, breeding) for native fauna including conservation significant fauna

o Degradation of terrestrial and aquatic habitat adjacent to and downstream of cleared areas

o Landscape fragmentation, reduction in connectivity and reduced capacity for fauna dispersal

o Fauna mortality

o Introduction of weeds and pest species

o An alteration to the ground/surface water interaction in the vicinity of the Carmichael River”
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesEnvironmental organisations don't want the mine to go ahead at all as burning coal contributes to climate change, and increasing greenhouse gas emissions is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. They also see it as economically unviable due to the declining coal industry and inconsistent with international politics where commitments are being made to reduce emissions. As reported in The Age newspaper in Victoria: "The aim of the Australian Conservation Foundation ... is to stop this mine" [3].
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The proposal has been approved.
Sources and Materials

Mining lease under the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld) (MRA)

Environmental authority under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) (EPA)

Approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act)


[1] Environmental Law Australia, “Carmichael Coal Mine Cases in the Land Court & Supreme Court of Qld”,, [accessed 22/6/16]
[click to view]

[4] West, M. (2016), “Adani's Carmichael mine is just not going to happen”, They Sydney Morning Herald, April 5 2016,, [accessed 22/6/16]
[click to view]

[5] Adani Australia, “Our History”,, [accessed 22/6/16]
[click to view]

[6] Adani Group, “About Us”,, [accessed 22/6/16]
[click to view]

[2] Adani, “Environmental Impact Statement. Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project”,, [accessed 22/6/16]
[click to view]

[3] van Vonderen, J. (2015), “Australian Conservation Foundation challenges Adani's Carmichael coal mine in Federal Court”, ABC News website,, [accessed 22/6/16]
[click to view]

Other Documents
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorLisa de Kleyn, PhD Candidate, RMIT University, [email protected]
Last update28/06/2016