Over the last 6 months I have sought answers to questions about the Adani entity names used in communications from the Queensland government department responsible for coordinating and regulating development projects and proponents including mining companies – the Office of the Coordinator-General (OCG). I made requests for clarification and information to a communications officer, but I was given a flat refusal. I submitted a complaint regarding ethical conduct of the officer and the department itself, sought an internal review, and then an external review with the Queensland Ombudsman. None of my efforts were successful.
After what I can only describe as a chain of exoneration and obfuscation where I am left with more questions than answers, I can make one clear statement:
The OCG are confident that they can refer to ‘Bravus’ rather than the listed proponents in their communications and in the commissioning of reports without consequence.
It might reasonably be expected that the OCG would use the names of the Adani entities it coordinates under the State Development and Public Works Organisations Act (SDPWO Act) in its communications, but a recent report on an investigation into allegations of environmental breaches on the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) failed to identify Adani’s rail proponent or name the project where the alleged breaches took place and physical inspections had been conducted (including OCG staff). I wrote about how the OCG were “masking” the relevant project proponents in March and again in May this year.
The Office of the Coordinator-General and Adani: Masking the rail proponent
A very questionable investigation: The OCG, Adani and public sector ethics in Queensland
24 Adani entities
How is it that a business name that is the product of re-branding came to be used as a substitute for the specific entities coordinated and regulated by the OCG? Why do media and NGOs take little to no interest in unpacking Adani’s corporate structure and branding? The answer to both questions starts with a look at the Bravus Mining and Resources website.
Appendix – Adani companies in Australia, which collect and use personal information
When the media, NGO spokespeople and government departments repeat Adani’s statements without questioning if those statements should detail the entities regulated and coordinated under state and federal law, they are failing to properly inform the people. Adani Australia’s re-branding as Bravus was designed to suggest that its marquee company Adani Mining Pty Ltd, holder of the majority of environmental approvals and all Indigenous land use agreements, was the sole subject of the name change. Adani didn’t need to lie (though they kinda did and still kinda are), they simply anticipated the dearth of interrogation from the media and NGOs which allowed suggestion to do the work for them. It fooled me and everyone who wrote about the Bravus re-branding.
The Adani Mining Pty Ltd ASIC listing does not specify that they are trading as ‘Bravus Mining and Resources’. Adani Mining Pty Ltd are still the EPBC approval holder for both the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) and the North Galilee Basin Rail Project, and hold all Indigenous land use agreements. The introduction of the ‘Bravus Mining and Resources’ business name/brand was not accompanied by any change of name on any documents on the public record.
A statement can be found below Adani media releases hosted on the Bravus website that predate the branding exercise. This statement asserts that the name of “Adani Mining” which we can reasonably assume is a reference to “Adani Mining Pty Ltd” was “officially changed” to “Bravus Mining and Resources”.
On November 5th, Adani Mining officially changed it’s name to Bravus Mining and Resources.
Sometime between September 19, 2021 and October 23, 2021, the ASIC listing for Bravus Mining and Resources was amended to include the details of the business name holder, Adani Mining Pty Ltd, including an ABN, and a business and mailing address. I was able to establish this fact by comparing ASIC summaries downloaded on the dates listed. The amended ASIC listing is the first piece of evidence placed on the public record showing that Adani Mining Pty Ltd has an official connection to the Bravus Mining and Resources business name. It raises the question of why Adani Mining Pty Ltd took 11 months to include basic information about its new business name on the public record. Perhaps they saw the tweet I sent to Ben Smee on September 21 or the email I sent to an Adani legal counsel on September 20?
The law and proper communications
While the government departments have built-in exoneration mechanisms, the media and NGO spokespeople can choose to take a more interrogatory approach that takes account of the web of Adani entities that exist under the Bravus brand. In theory this is the professional responsibility of journalists and their editors, and should be the imperative reflected in the output of various NGOs. Think tanks and environmental law firms should be the leaders in this regard, but they are not. I suspect this is because narrative framing and funding for particular themed campaigns has left the NGO sector without the necessary agility to identify and respond to Adani’s marketing strategies. In the process of failing to interrogate Adani’s branding the environmental NGOs and the media leave us all misinformed. In adopting the branded nomenclature of ‘Bravus’ over the names of the Adani entities coordinated and regulated under Queensland legislation, the OCG have allowed the Bravus re-branding to determine their communications.
In March I published a blog post about developments along the Adani rail corridor. I looked closely at the role of the Office of the Coordinator General (OCG) in providing accurate and timely information to the public regarding Adani’s rail proponent via media statements and approval milestone documents published at the direction of the premier.
In my March blog post I followed 2 lines of inquiry regarding the Adani proponent for rail, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRN). The first line of enquiry related to the OCG taking an excessive amount of time to announce that Adani had achieved it’s last approval milestone. The OCG responded by posting an update on the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) “Project overview” web page, but did not provide an explanation for their tardiness. The second line of inquiry related to the OCG statements provided to regional media regarding the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) & Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) complaint alleging environmental breaches by Adani contractors on the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR). It is this second line of inquiry that I’d like to return to here.
In the 6 weeks between the publication of my March blog post and the announcement that the OCG had completed it’s investigation, I spent my time contacting editors, chiefs of staff, and NGO staff to ask them to look closely at the details in the media reports and statements from the OCG. It is my firm belief that the OCG ought to publish statements and instruct investigators on the basis of its statutory responsibilities. By this I mean that the OCG should always make media statements that reflect the precise nature of the work they do, the projects they coordinate and the relevant proponents for those coordinated projects. My efforts to clarify communications were a complete failure. The Mackay Conservation Group, Environmental Justice Australia, The Courier Mail chief of staff, and ABC editors could have held the OCG to account or at least made specific assertions based on information published by the OCG at any time, but they did not.
My March blog post and my attempts to engage with media, NGOs and the OCG were focused around clarifying 2 facts; that the proponent for the project under investigation is Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd; and that the name of the project is the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. I made the assertion over the phone, via email and through social media that the OCG is an agency with powers to make statutory decisions (under statute, law or legislation) and it ought to use the names of the project and proponent for which they are responsible in all their communications.
The following statement was given to me by an OCG spokesperson on March 23, after they had initiated their investigation and presumably provided instructions to their investigators:
Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was requested to, and did, provide information in relation to the alleged breach of conditions.
This statement alone does not confirm that the OCG were outright lying, but it does confirm what I expect should have taken place administratively under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act (SDPWO Act).
Melanie Whiting’s March 19 article contains the quote for which I sought clarification from the OCG. A comparison of the statement sent to me and the one provided to Melanie Whiting shows that information was requested and received, according to the OCG, by both Bravus Mining and Resources (Bravus) and CRN.
Bravus staff answer the phones and do liaison from the same Brisbane office address they share with CRN. There is no separate contact point or spokesperson for CRN. This suggests to me that the OCG could offer as a defence, the argument that the information itself was passed on by Bravus staff, but relates to CRN:
“Bravus has supplied information requested by the Coordinator-General, including details of the alleged event,” a spokesman for the Office of the Coordinator-General said.
“The Coordinator-General has independently engaged experts in sediment and erosion control and stormwater management to review the information.
On May 19, the day after Melanie Whiting again provided a quote from an OGC spokesperson which suggests that Bravus is responsible for alleged breaches along the NGBR corridor, I contacted the OCG to seek clarification:
I’m requesting a statement from a spokesperson for the CG’s office indicating the Adani proponent to which the Office of the Coordinator General ‘specified’ ‘improvements’.
The statement provided to Melanie Whiting by a spokesperson for the OCG suggests that the rail contractors associated with the alleged breaches are engaged by Bravus, but the public record does not indicate which Adani entity made the contracts with Martinus, Siemens and BMD. All we know is that their contracts are for the ‘Carmichael Rail Network’:
The Office of the Coordinator-General has specified the improvements which Bravus and their contractors need to put in place.
I provided a question to an OCG Senior Communications Officer after reminding them of the previous statement they had provided to me indicating that they had been in contact with, and received information from CRN:
I’m requesting a statement from a spokesperson for the CG’s office indicating the Adani proponent to which the Office of the Coordinator General ‘specified’ ‘improvements’.
The statement that was emailed to me in response left me perplexed:
The Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRN) is the proponent for the Carmichael Rail Network project. As CRN is a Bravus entity, the Office of the Coordinator-General (OCG) has made reference to Bravus in the OCG’s media response regarding the investigation into erosion and sediment management.
On May 20 I again contacted the OCG Senior Communications Officer to confirm that my understanding of the facts and the functioning of the OCG were correct. I also requested clarification of the reasoning/basis behind the assignation of CRN as a “Bravus entity” along with links/references to any value documents and/or sections in the SDPWO Act that guide the staff of the OCG on the need for accuracy in their communications with the media and the public.
In reply I received a flat refusal to respond to any of my ongoing concerns including those regarding values around accuracy:
We appreciate your ongoing interest but have nothing further to add.
Please refer to our multiple responses since the start of the year.
I immediately followed up the flat refusal with a complaint to the Director of Ethics at People and Performance – Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning. I asked them to consider the ‘Accountability and Transparency’ section of the Code of Conduct for the Queensland public service which quotes Section 9(c) of the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 which reads:
are committed to managing information as openly as practicable within the legal framework; and
I also reiterated my concerns about the responsibility of the OCG to communicate the actual functions it performs under the SDPWO Act. I highlighted that the Water Technology (WT) report produced under instruction by the OCG was of particular concern:
I would ask that you be mindful of the project names for projects for which the OCG is responsible for coordinating under the SDPWO Act. I would ask that you consider how the OCG may have framed their instructions to Water Technology for their investigation and the impact those instructions may have had on the naming and identification of relevant proponents under the SDPWO Act.
On May 27 I received correspondence from the Assistant Coordinator-General in response to some of my unanswered questions. They were able to confirm that I had my facts right about the relevant proponents and provided me with links to code of conduct documents. I was also provided with a perplexing explanation for the erroneous and misleading title of the WT report:
The report was prepared in response to a review of parts of both the North Galilee Basin Rail project and the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail project. The title of the report reflects the name of the joint proponents.
The reason this explanation perplexes me is that the title of the report contains the name of the mine proponent, not the rail proponent. The assistant CG does not even attend to that issue in their response. Bravus and CRN are joint proponents for the CCMR. CRN were enjoined as a proponent to deliver the rail component of the mine project which connects with the NGBR.
To make things absolutely clear in regard to the OCG’s published statements regarding Bravus and CRN as “joint proponents”; here is a quote from the CCMR *Project overview page that is published under the direction of the OCG:
Adani Mining Pty Ltd and Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (joint proponents), both wholly owned subsidiaries of Adani Australia, part of the Adani Group.
Bravus and CRN are not joint proponents of the ‘Carmichael Rail Network’. CRN are the sole proponent for the NGBR and joint proponent of the CCMR for the purposes of rail.
Here is a succinct description from a reliable source; a Supreme Court of Queensland document from proceedings brought against Ben Pennings, co-founder of Galilee Blockade:
Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (“Carmichael Rail”) is the proponent and developer of a railway, approximately 200 kilometres long, which would connect the mine with the existing rail network in Central Queensland.
It needs to be understood that the WT investigation was primarily concerned with the allegations of environmental breaches along the NGBR corridor made by the Mackay Conservation Group who also urged that “other similar sites” be investigated:
WT have investigated the sites identified by the Mackay Conservation Group and other sites identified in the desktop review.
In the WT report the responsibility for adherence to environmental conditions imposed by the OCG was repeatedly attributed to “Bravus”. The introductory paragraph of the report titled ‘Erosion and Sediment Management Investigation: Carmichael Rail Network – Bravus Mining and Resources’ asserts that the OCG engaged WT to investigate alleged breaches by “Bravus”:
Water Technology (WT) were engaged by the Office of the Coordinator General (OCG) to investigate alleged breaches of legal obligations by Bravus at three locations on the Carmichael Rail Network Corridor to determine if a breach of conditions had occurred. This report details the nature of the alleged breaches and the results of our investigation.
The MCG identified 3 locations within the NGBR corridor, therefore it is clear that the desktop review added the other locations. This would suggest that all or some of the locations identified in the desktop review were located on the CCMR – Separable Portion 1 (SP1) of the combined rail corridor, but the chainages listed that identify the additional locations for on site inspections are found along the NGBR corridor.
The site observations were completed on the 23rd and 24th March 2021 and included the three locations identified for investigation by MCG, and also two additional pre-selected locations by WT and one further location identified during the visit. Additional casual observations of the site works outside of the six specific locations were made during the course of the two-day site observations.
It is likely that the scope of the investigation was widened to include locations along SP1 through the desktop review process. The green section in the map below, which was supplied by WT in their report, is the SP1 section of the CCMR. As you can see, no inspections by the WT team, OCG staff, Adani staff or contractors contractors were made outside of the blue and purple sections which represent the NGBR corridor.
*It’s important to note that the MCG incident report titled ‘Environmental Pollution Incident Report: Adani Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, February 2021’ does not identify the proponent for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. It identifies the wrong project name in the report title and uses the old name for Adani’s mine proponent in the text. Indeed the document is so inaccurate that, while preparing for my previous blog post, I mistook it for a document relating to alleged breaches from 2019.
The opening line in the MCG incident report wrongly identifies the project name:
This report by Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) aims to inform a formal complaint about
erosion and sediment controls failing at the site of the Adani Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail
Project in Central Queensland during December 2020.
This paragraph suggests that the author is not aware that the contiguous rail corridor, known since mid 2018 as ‘Carmichael Rail Network’, is a combination of the NGBR corridor and Separable Portion 1 of the Carmichael mine rail corridor after it was shortened by approximately 110 km some time in 2015-16:
These locations are in the Whitsunday Regional Council area, but sediment and erosion
control management failings may have occurred across the whole of the Adani Carmichael
Coal and Rail Project. Other similar sites should be investigated, including parts of the
The WT report contains a summary of the Mackay Conservation Group incident report. As I mentioned, the MCG report wrongly identifies the relevant proponent, but instead of substituting the actual proponent for the NGBR (CRN) with the incorrectly alleged proponent (Adani Mining), the WT authors substituted the new name for the incorrectly reported proponent (Bravus). It’s hard to imagine how the OCG’s instructions and briefings lead to that substitution decision, but it had the effect of the WT report text not contradicting the media statements made by OCG spokespeople under the principle that “CRN is a Bravus entity”.
Here’s an exemplar of the inaccurate substitutions that WT authors may have been instructed/caused to make by the OCG:
Prosecute of Bravus for breaching their legal obligations in this case.
It’s utterly clear to me that the intent of the MCG incident report and the accompanying letter from the EJA lawyer was that the Queensland government, through it’s relevant departments, conduct an investigation and make enforceable decisions under the relevant legislation to compel the relevant legal entities responsible for projects coordinated under the SDPWO Act to take the necessary measures to comply with existing or newly created environmental conditions. In light of that clear intent: would it not be in the interests of accountability and transparency that investigators are instructed to communicate the correct proponent even when the original incident report was in error?
The WT summary of the MCG incident report contained incorrect assertions of the responsibility of Bravus for alleged breaches. Contrast that against the summary of the EJA letter to Meaghan Scanlon. Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd is specified as the NGBR proponent the EJA letter, but this is not mentioned in the summary. The EJA summary also includes reference to the Riverine Protection Permit Exemption ‘approved entity’ number assigned to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd in 2017, but without mentioning their name.
The only reference to the actual proponent responsible for the allegations that prompted the investigation was made in the WT authors response section:
We note that the Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd were added as approved entity for the purposes of the exemption requirements for a Riverine Protection Permit (Version 1.03) on the 19th of September 2017.
The WT report authors made one reference to the body responsible for Adani’s rail corridor under coordination by the OCG while making dozens of references to the mine proponent Bravus in a report about breaches on a project for which the mine proponent are not responsible under the law. Something seems to be very wrong!
It looks to me that the OCG have consistently made every effort/taken the necessary steps to keep the name of the Adani rail proponent out of the frame to the extent that they are capable of causing the name to be published. I’ve been provided 2 perplexing statements for why the rail proponent name didn’t appear where statements and investigations regarding alleged environmental breaches related to the projects for which CRN are responsible under the SDPWO Act.
A clue to the OCG’s consistency could lie in the phrase “CRN is a Bravus entity”. It may be that the CG has nominated Bravus as the entity responsible for particular imposed environmental conditions under Section 54 of the SDPWO Act. I would direct the reader to section 54A ‘Application of div 8’. If section 54A can be satisfied and section 54B (3) is applied, then section 54V ‘Jurisdiction for conditions’ may allow the Coordinator-General to “nominate an entity that is to have jurisdiction for the condition[s]”.
My investigations thus far have revealed that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd acquired significant Queensland government approvals and accreditations prior to the OCG changing the listed Adani proponent for the NGBR and rail component of the CCMR in June 2018. CRN made the AECOM contract, changed ultimate holding companies, and were mentioned in the North Galilee Water Scheme application documents as the Adani proponent for rail all while the NAIF controversy raged.
My working theory is that the Coordinator-General permitted Adani to install a new proponent without generating a public notice of any kind. I have checked my interpretation of the SDPWO Act with a staffer at the OCG and it is highly likely that with a single email to Adani Mining Pty Ltd the CG was able to facilitate ‘Change Request 1’ under sections 27AE and 35G of the SDPWO Act.
To put it in plain language: Under the act, if the CG decides that a request for a project change is unproblematic, they need not add anything to the public record. With a single email the CG was able to give Adani Mining Pty Ltd unlimited time operating with an unannounced proponent before causing information confirming a change of proponent to appear.
The working theory that I outlined in the last 2 paragraphs is based not only on research and right to information disclosures, but also on a conversation I had with senior project managers within the OCG. In September 2018 upon my discovering the change of listed proponent, I received a conference call from Karen Oakley and Heather Lopez; both project managers from the OCG. They asked me about my blog and mentioned that the CG had made a “statutory decision” giving Adani “unlimited time”.
Controversies and conclusions
With the recent federal court decision on the North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS) there is likely to be a high level of scrutiny applied to the “water trigger”. Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd, as the mine rail proponent, are responsible for Separable Portion 1 which is also the NGWS ‘Stage B’ pipeline corridor. CRN are currently listed as a “prescribed entity” in the Queensland Water Amendment Regulation (No. 1) 2020 for the purposes of obtaining a water licence to add to their extensive accreditations and approvals. CRN are enmeshed into the scheme having been included in NGWS application documents and identified as the Adani rail proponent 18 months before their existence as the Adani rail proponent was ever acknowledged publicly.
The federal environment department is currently investigating a complaint regarding ‘Borrow Pit 7’ a quarry used to support the building of the rail corridor. No party involved in the making the complaint, conducting the investigation or reporting on it have been prepared to explicitly name the proponent responsible. As usual the media reports suggest Bravus is responsible with journalists like Ben Smee continuing to assert that Adani became ‘Bravus’ which is an inaccurate simplification of the re-branding of Adani Mining Pty Ltd after it had parcelled off it’s rail corridor to the former shell company, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd.
As this giant coordinated project gets built and the environmental complaints roll in; agencies like the Office of the Coordinator-General will continue in their patterns of apparent prevarication; young journalists will obey their chiefs of staff and write what is expected and efficient; and NGO operatives will continue to labour under the capacity constraints and narratives that are assigned and reinforced by the philanthropically funded members of the StopAdani alliance. This is not the time to serve a narrative. It’s the time to speak the truth forcefully.
I spent a good chunk of last week pestering the slow moving media officer at the Queensland Office of the Coordinator-General to explain why they were three months late updating the public on the final approval/milestone for the Adani Carmichael project, and why they recently gave NewsCorp a statement that I would describe as misleading in regard to the entity that is actually responsible for alleged breaches along the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) corridor. In the end they provided me with a statement that indicated they received a February update from Adani, and a statement that correctly identifies the Adani entity responsible for the alleged breaches, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRN).
Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd – Rolling Stock Operator accreditation
To my mind the reason the approvals/milestones updates provided by the Office of the Coordinator-General are significant and require timely publication is because the Carmichael mine, rail corridor, port and other associated infrastructure represent an unprecedented conglomeration of projects overseen by a coordinator-general (CG) with unprecedented powers under the State Development and Public Works Act 1971.
In May 2019 the Queensland premier directed the Office of the Coordinator-General to monitor and expedite approvals. Part of their response was to provide updates to approvals in the form of a PDF hosted at the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) webpage.
It is my reasonable contention that the general public would expect that updates are timely and accurate, and include all the relevant details such as the Adani proponent responsible for any particular approval. I have been unable to get clarification from the CG’s office as to why Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd are not mentioned in any of the update PDFs.
Here’s how the ABC reported the premier’s directive to the coordinator-general in 2019:
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has asked the Coordinator-General to oversee the approvals process for the Adani coal project saying both she and the community were “fed up” with waiting for the department to approve the Indian mining company’s environmental management plans.
Approvals/milestones updates relate to both projects CCMR and NGBR but are only listed on the CCMR webpage and CRN are not mentioned in the updates.
The statement provided by the CG’s office in the October 2020 update document in association with rail approvals could have indicated which Adani entity was applying for rolling stock operator accreditation. The CG’s office would have been aware the mine proponent Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Bravus) had surrendered their rail accreditation in 2017 before rail safety accreditation was passed over by the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Transport (DTMR) to the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) in 2017/18.
Here’s the statement made by the CG’s office in association with the final rail accreditations in their October 2020 update:
Adani will continue to work with the Commonwealth Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator to obtain necessary approvals. This approval not on the critical path and the Coordinator-General will continue to monitor.
The CG’s office clearly did not monitor for RSO accreditation. If they had been monitoring the process they would have developed a relationship with the ONRSR to receive timely notice of new Queensland based accreditations. Instead the CG’s office relied on Adani to update them, it seems, in their own time.
Here’s the statement provided to me by a spokesperson for the Office of the Coordinator-General on March 26, 2021:
In a February 2021 monthly report, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd provided advice to the Office of the Coordinator-General that “CRN has all ONRSR accreditations necessary to support the current construction activity”. The project webpage has been updated with this project information.
Adani updated the CG’s office some time in February 2021, but the CG’s office did not act on that information until pressured by me. If we assume the ONRSR published their accreditations register document on the date listed, February 1, 2021, then we can reasonably surmise that the monitoring responsibilities of the CG’s office did not extend to monitoring publications from the national rail safety regulator.
Here’s a link to the March 26, 2021 update document from the CG’s office:
Did the CG’s office deliberately avoid/delay providing an update on CRN RSO accreditation? That’s the question I would like to answer. We can say for certain that the CG’s office allowed Adani to set the timeline by waiting for them to report before taking action. It can also be deduced that the CG’s office had knowledge of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd receiving the final approval/milestone at least 4 weeks before they published an update. We can be confident that if the CG’s office were actually monitoring the approvals process diligently they would have known about the RSO accreditation at least 8 weeks before they published their update. And if the CG’s office had a relationship with the ONRSR then they could have acquired knowledge of the final approval/milestone 3 months before they provided their update. We can be confident that Adani have known since December 22, 2020 that they had successfully received RSO accreditation.
Environmental Breaches on the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the Mackay Conservation Group/Environmental Justice Australia complaint
The way language is used in law and under the legislation that governs the work of the Office of the Coordinator-General determines the need for a high level of specificity. The same is not always required for the media or NGOs. The media and NGOs can get away with using general terminology or avoiding specific language altogether. When the coordinator-general’s office are less than specific with the language they provide to the media and NGOs they can feed into the misrepresentation of facts.
On February 5, 2021 the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) and Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) issued a media release alleging environmental breaches to conditions imposed by the coordinator-general (CG). These breaches are alleged to have taken place on the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR).
The original media release from MCG-EJA made no mention of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRN) nor does it assert that Bravus is the responsible entity. The media release does mention that the NGBR is the project in question. It’s not hard to do a quick search and discover that the proponent for the NGBR is CRN. Journalists could have easily obtained the correct information by clicking through to the letter sent by the EJA lawyer on February 3, 2021 to the Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Meaghan Scanlon in which the proponent is clearly specified.
From the media release:
MCG believes that conditions imposed by the Queensland Coordinator General (QCG) on Adani’s North Galilee Basin Rail Project to protect nearby waterways from contamination may have been breached. The conditions require the development and implementation of erosion and sediment control measures.
Interestingly Adani’s response to the MCG/EJA media release and supporting documentation makes no mention of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd or the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. No effort is made to make it clear Bravus is not the responsible proponent.
Today, anti-coal activist organisations Environmental Justice Australia and Mackay Conservation Group released a statement containing false allegations regarding sediment controls on Bravus’ Carmichael mine and rail project sites.
“Bravus Mining and Resources is constructing the Carmichael Mine and Rail Project, which comprises a 10 million tonne per annum thermal coal mine, located more than 300km inland from the Great Barrier Reef. It also includes a 200km narrow gauge rail line to connect the Carmichael Mine to the North Queensland Export Terminal via existing rail infrastructure.
The original letter sent by Ariane Wilkinson (EJA) on February 3, 2021 did specify that CRN are the NGBR proponent. The letter was linked in the February 5 media release.
We note that the failure to properly implement erosion and sediment controls on the NGBRP is part of a pattern of behaviour on the part of the Adani Group, including Adani Mining Pty Ltd, a related entity of the NGRP proponent, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd.
When ABC North Queensland journalist Myles Houlbrook-Walk reported on the MCG/EJA complaint he erroneously suggested Bravus were responsible. Neither the media release nor the EJA lawyer’s letter contain the assertion that Bravus were the responsible proponent.
Environmentalists have alleged Bravus (formerly known as Adani) failed to properly manage erosion at its inland rail project, potentially contaminating waterways, according to a complaint made to Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science.
Melanie Whiting (NewsCorp) picked up the story on March 19, 2021. In her reporting Whiting, like Houlbrook-Walk erroneously asserted that Bravus was responsible.
The group alleged this was because Bravus had failed to properly prepare construction sites on the rail corridor for the wet season.
The Whiting story included a quote from the CG’s office saying Bravus provided them the information:
“Bravus has supplied information requested by the Coordinator-General, including details of the alleged event,” a spokesman for the Office of the Coordinator-General said.
On March 23, 2021 the CG’s office provided me with a statement that says that CRN are responsible:
Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was requested to, and did, provide information in relation to the alleged breach of conditions.
Did the CG’s office lie? I would contend that the CG’s office should communicate the name of the specific proponent of the project that is the subject of the complaint in question when providing statements to the media. I certainly think the CG’s office should make every effort to provide factual information to the media and the general public. Just because someone from the Bravus office communicated with the CG’s office in the provision of information, does not mean that Bravus provided information under the requirements imposed by the CG. Under the State Development and Public Works Act 1971 that governs the actions of the CG’s office, the legal entity and NGBR proponent that is listed on the NGBR project page which is hosted and maintained by the CG’s office is Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd. CRN are the entity from which the CG’s office sought and procured information and therefore the entity that the spokesperson for the CG’s office ought to have included in their statement to media reported on March 19, 2021.
Delaying the release of information and misrepresenting the source of information give advantage to Adani by masking the activities of the specific legal entity responsible for the extensive rail link that will cause damage along it’s entire length and open the Galilee Basin to decades of destruction. That legal entity was created for a reason that we don’t yet know and installed very quietly sometime before January 2017.
During my investigation into why alleged breaches by CRN were being reported as the responsibility of Bravus I discovered that the EJA lawyer had quit to go and work for WWF. The lawyer did not want to discuss the issue. When I spoke to a media person for EJA I discovered that nobody had been briefed to continue dealing with the media following the complaint. This went part of the way to explaining why neither EJA nor MCG had responded in any way to the Melanie Whiting story on their social media channels. My conversation with Peter McCallum from MCG on March 25, 2021 was much more cordial than my conversations with EJA staff, but I didn’t find an answer to the lack of attention paid to media reporting. It seems that between Adani, the media, the NGOs and the Queensland government there is no desire to report/communicate in a timely, accurate and diligent fashion. This advantages Adani’s interests against all others.
On my recent visit to Melbourne by bus and train I made a trip down to Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula to see if I could find the building site for the hydrogen liquefaction facility designed to support Victoria’s Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) pilot project. A friend who lives locally came along with me on the Frankston train, we had planned to get a connecting bus onto Hastings, but my friend convinced me that we should get a car-share in Mordialloc and make the rest of the journey that way.
Reports in the media described the Kawasaki Heavy Industries facility as being built at the “Port of Hastings”. Our objective was to find the specific location, a street address, a map reference or both. We were confident we were on the right track shortly after exiting the Western Port Highway when we found pipeline markers running parallel to Frankston-Flinders Rd on our left as we headed south. We were even more confident when we saw the first of the Esso petroleum storage tanks to our left. We took a left turn where a rail spur crossed the road and another left onto Bayview Road. Where Bayview Road meets Long Island Drive we found the Kawasaki pilot site.
The pilot site location is more accurately described as being on Long Island Point, Hastings. The area was clearly established as an industrial export site long ago. Two Esso storage/export facilities are situated near two Bluescope Steel facilities. Both are serviced by rail spurs and, it should be assumed, pipeline infrastructure. We found some key information on public displays at the Hastings pier where the fishers moor their boats.
While we were in Hastings we picked up a copy of the Western Port News which was running a story by Keith Platt on the new Kawasaki facility and the resistance coming on the back of the ‘climate emergency’ declared by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council in August 2019. The Western Port Shire Council (WPSC) have commissioned a report on the Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hydrogen Engineering Australia project and a proposed container port. The report will likely be released sometime in April this year.
The HESC project has a 500 million price tag and includes the development of potential geological storage of CO2 sequestered from the Loy Yang brown coal to hydrogen facility in the Latrobe Valley near Traralgon. The WPSC may find itself up against the might of the Victorian and Australian governments in contesting the Kawasaki facility going beyond the pilot phase.
The CarbonNet CO2 storage project has been provided 150 million by the Victorian and federal governments so far. The HESC proponents downplay the sequestration component that would transform the hydrogen exported by Kawasaki Heavy Industries projects into “clean” or “blue” hydrogen. It is likely that the Loy Yang pilot will not immediately sequester the CO2 produced in the process of producing hydrogen from brown coal which is precisely what happened at the Gorgon Gas Project on Barrow Island off the Pilbara coast.
Ninety Mile Against Carbon Storage (NMACS) is a grass roots group based in Gippsland that has been campaigning against the CarbonNet project. In their project briefing they start by providing some important context about the 2 billion in federal funding for carbon capture and storage going back to 2009.
When the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program was established in 2009 by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd it was a means of securing a low-emissions future for coal by supporting the construction and demonstration of large-scale integrated CCS projects in Australia.
NMACS point out that the CarbonNet project is one of the survivors of the CCS Flagships program and is heavily supported by the state and federal governments.
Supporting grass roots groups is of vital importance right now. The political will evidenced by the involvement of the Australian, Victorian and Japanese government in support of corporate interests in both Australia and Japan shows that grass roots groups are heavily out gunned. They are fighting plans that have been developed since at least 2009 when former federal energy minister Martin Ferguson attended the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum hosted under the banner of the International Energy Agency’s, Clean Energy Ministerial process.
The Western Port Peninsula Protection Council and the Preserve Western Port Action Group have expressed concerns about possible dredging and climate impacts from fossil hydrogen production preceding any CO2 sequestration.
Notes from the Fossil Frontlines Tour Westernport Bay
There is still much to be unpacked about how the HESC project came to be. Very little information is available from the bigger environmental organisations and their networks into think tanks and the media. This is consistent with the general absence of intelligence and analysis coming from the big environmental organisations in regard to CCS projects. The HESC website provides some key information including an FAQs page.
Lastly, a piece called ‘Does writing books still matter in an era of environmental catastrophe?’ by Briohny Doyle gives a little context to the situation in Gippsland. It is perhaps the most widely read piece of writing to actually attend to the issue of CCS plans for the HESC project.
The rig off Paradise Beach is an experimental driller for “Carbon Net”, a carbon capture and storage project capable of processing a promotional video extols, “the equivalent of CO2 emissions from around one million cars every year that it operates”. The comparison is misleading however, as Carbon Net will not capture emissions from the air but from high polluting industrial sites in the Latrobe Valley, piping them seaward to inject into layers of sandstone deep in Bass Strait.
The public record shows us that four years ago Adani began negotiating with local councils under the corporate banner of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRN) for the purposes of developing their Galilee Basin coal complex businesses. But it wasn’t until March of 2018 that Adani formally advised the Queensland Coordinator General (CG) of the change of name of the proponent for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) from Adani Mining Pty Ltd to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd, and the addition of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as the rail proponent for the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR).
I was prompted to prepare a log of key dates and the primary sources that confirm them when I discovered an RTI (Right to Information) disclosure made to Lock the Gate Alliance (LGTA) in July 2019. The disclosure related to the North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS) application by Adani and contains the revelation that Adani regarded Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as the proponent for the rail component of both the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project more than a year before they informed the Coordinator General of the change of proponent. Crucially the disclosure shows that the Queensland government were informed, on the eve of the senate estimates hearings into the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), that Adani were running a new rail proponent. The release of the LGTA disclosure was made more than 2 years after the original RTI application, this time frame strongly suggests that LGTA made at least 2 appeals before achieving success.
Under the act that governs the functioning of the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP) the Coordinator General can, in writing, permit a proponent to delay reporting a change of proponent details for an unspecified period. It is likely that at some point in late 2016 Adani requested written advice from the CG indicating that they had unlimited time to inform them of a change of proponent. My understanding of the relevant act, the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (SDPWO Act), is limited, but it is plain to see that it confers extraordinary, and unprecedented powers and privileges for large scale and controversial mining developments. This makes interpretation of Adani’s actions, sanctioned by the Coordinator General, extremely difficult to analyse. I would argue that the various NGOs and think tanks networked with the Stop Adani Alliance and the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) collectively possess the capacity to apply knowledge of the SDPWO Act to good effect. What remains to be done is to follow up previous RTI applications with targeted applications using the terms “Carmichael Rail Network” and “ Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd”.
It is clear that federal Liberal National Party (LNP) politicians were aware that Adani was running a secret proponent and it is clear Queensland Labor politicians were aware that Adani was running a secret proponent. Both parties had access to commercial in confidence information about the NAIF loan applicant. My question is why were Larissa Waters and members of the Stop Adani Alliance confident that they knew the name of the secret proponent? The crucial primary sources supporting the claims made in this document from Environmental Justice Australia (EJA), and this, and this article by Stephen Long are not available online. The first specific contention made by EJA and Stephen Long in the lead up to senate estimates hearings was that the Adani loan applicant was one of a group of shell companies which included Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd whose holding companies were housed in the Cayman Islands. The second contention was that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was the holder of the royalty deed. In the absence of primary sources, these claims, supported by people like Adam Walters – principal researcher and Energy Resource Insights, and associate professor Thomas Clarke – director of the Centre for Corporate Governance at UTS do not form a compelling case identifying which Adani entity was applying for the NAIF loan.
In a written question on notice to Matt Canavan’s portfolio in March 2017 Larissa Waters asserted that “the company that owns their proposal for the railway line is ultimately owned in the Cayman Islands”. The confidence shown by Larissa Waters in asserting that she knows which Adani entity was the NAIF loan applicant was not supported by publicly available documents or evidence that those documents exist. Either Larissa Waters’ confidence came from her belief in the voracity of the claims made by Stephen Long and EJA, or it came from knowing that Adani had communicated to the Queensland government 2 months earlier that they were running a different proponent to the one listed on the DSDMIP website. It’s quite possible that the rumour mill provided Larissa Waters knowledge of Adani’s statements to the Queensland government. Was the existence of Adani’s secret proponent an open secret?
As far as I can tell, not a single RTI application in Queensland contains the words “Carmichael Rail Network” or “Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd”. Only 2 RTI disclosures mention Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd. The Greens and StopAdani Alliance members were very concerned about the specific Adani proponent in line for the NAIF loan, but once the NAIF loan was vetoed that concern evaporated. There is little to no evidence that any Greens politician, Stop Adani Alliance member or CANA member have made any effort to analyse or reveal the nature and function of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd.
Unpacking the part played by the Queensland and federal governments in masking the establishment of a new proponent necessarily requires the unpacking of the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and Separable Portion 1 (SP1) (the remnants of the rail line proposed for the Carmichael mine). As I have demonstrated repeatedly in my blog, the Greens, StopAdani Alliance and CANA have no interest in unpacking the rail corridor and the deals done to establish Traditional Owner consent.
Background from my blog
‘References to NGBR in reports by environmental organisations about the NAIF concessional loan to Adani: Briefing Document’
Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP)
State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (SDPWO Act)
Climate Action Network Australia (CANA)
Liberal National Party (LNP)
Environmental Justice Australia (EJA)
Separable Portion 1 (SP1)
21 key dates
The following is a list of 21 dates that represent the advancement of Adani’s spearhead contribution to the creation of the Galilee Basin coal complex. Very few of the sources and links have been cited by The Guardian Australia, Fairfax, ABC or NewsCorp journalists, even less has been shared by the Greens, StopAdani Alliance or Climate Action Network Australia members. I have included screen grabs whenever possible and have captured the text from each to demonstrate that the source documents are authentic.
Date: Jan 27, 2016
Source: Whitsunday RC minutes
Subject: Material change of use for rail infrastructure
Subject: Material change of use for rail infrastructure
12.1 2016/05/11.11 20150643 – REFERRAL ENTITY RESPONSE – APPLICATION FOR MATERIAL CHANGE OF USE FOR RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE (RAIL PACKAGE 3) IN THE GALILEE BASIN STATE DEVELOPMENT AREA, CARMICHAEL RAIL NETWORK PTY LTD
Subject: CRN ultimate holding company change from Caymans to Mauritius
08/09/2017 484 Change To Company
484D Change To
484N Changes To
08/09/2017 3 08/09/2017 7E9427173
Date: Sept 19, 2017
Source: We Suspect Silence blog and Riverine Protection Permit Exemption Requirements, Version 2.01, 13/11/2019
Subject: CRN made an ‘approved entity’
“On September 19, 2017 Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was added as an ‘approved entity’ for the purposes of ‘Riverine Protection Permit Exemption Requirements’. The available documents don’t indicate if Adani Mining Pty Ltd have ever applied for, or been added as an ‘approved entity’.”
Subject: Material change of use and approval of lease
12.12018/03/14.09 20170846 – DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION FOR DEVELOPMENT PERMIT FOR MATERIAL CHANGE OF USE -NON-RESIDENT WORKFORCE ACCOMMODATION (400 BED TEMPORARY CONSTRUCTION CAMP); AND OPERATIONAL WORKS – PETER DELAMOTHE ROAD, COLLINSVILLE, CARMICHAEL RAIL NETWORK PTY LTD
17.2Confidential Matters –Corporate Services 17.2.22018/03/14.25 APPROVAL OF LEASE CARMICHAEL RAIL NETWORK PTY LTD Moved by:P RAMAGE Seconded by:D CLARK Council resolves subject to the granting of Ministerial Consent under Section 236 (f) Local Government Regulation 2012 award the lease for Lot 87 SP 232119 to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd for an annual lease payment of $250,000 (excluding GST) per annum for a term of two years.
B. REASONS. Background 1. AECOM Australia Pty Ltd (referred to in this adjudication as the “claimant”) was engaged bythe Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (referred to in this adjudication as the “respondent”), to carry out engineering design services relating to the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project involving the: 1. development of the Carmichael Coal Mine; and 2. development of the Carmichael Rail Network, constituting the “work”.
Subject: Activites undertaken between October 2017 October 2018
Details of activities undertaken during report period
Early works activities undertaken included the
establishment of temporary fencing, clearing and
grubbing, filling and excavation and surveys
including environmental and cultural heritage.
Date: January 29, 2019
Source: Isaac RC minutes
Subject: CEO to negotiate and execute an interface agreement
Carmichael Rail Network (CRN) Interface Agreement
On 14 August 2018, Council authorised the Chief Executive Officer to “negotiate and execute an Interface Agreement regarding the CRN rail line interfaces with roads controlled by Council pursuant to section 60(1) of the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld)”. At that time, the draft Interface Agreement provided for two rail-road crossings, namely the proposed CRN rail line interfaces with Bulliwallah Road at Ch 353.654km and Stock Route U401 at Ch 322.100km. Due to the Carmichael Mine and Rail Project reconfiguration and the resultant proposal to maintain the current alignment of Moray Carmichael Boundary Road rather than to construct a realignment of the road, there is a new rail-road interface with Moray Carmichael Boundary Road. This Report provides further background with respect to the new rail-road interface with Moray Carmichael Boundary Road.
Resolution No.: 5838
Moved: Cr Jones Seconded: Cr Bethel
1. Extend the Chief Executive Officer’s authorisation to negotiate and execute an Interface Agreement regarding the CRN rail line interfaces with roads controlled by Council pursuant
Council is requested to note the draft agreement and basis for negotiations with Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Adani) and Carmichael Rail Network (CRN) and to authorise the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to progress negotiations.
Moved: Cr Vea VeaSeconded: Cr BethelThat Council:1. Notes the draft Infrastructure Access Agreement. 2. Authorises the Chief Executive Officer to continue negotiations with Adani Mining Pty Ltd and Carmichael Rail Network and report to Council again in March on progress and/or outcomes of negotiations prior to any formal agreement being reached.3. Acknowledge the effort and work from staff involved with getting this draft agreement to this point, in particular the Senior Advisor, former Executive Support Officer, Director Engineering and Infrastructure and Engineering and Infrastructure officers
Subject: Confidential deliberations on CRN inetrface agreement
PROCEDURAL MOTION:Resolution No.: 5973Moved: Cr Vea VeaSeconded: Cr LaceyThat Council close the meeting to the public at 12.06pmunder Local Government Regulations 2012Section 275 (1) (h) to deliberate on confidential report 11.1 Infrastructure Agreement Update and report 11.2 Carmichael Rail Network Interface Agreementand confidential discussions relating to report 10.1 Division 4 – Appointment to Vacancy of Office –Shortlisting of Nominees.
Closed under s275 (1) (h) other business for which a public discussion would be likely to prejudice the interests of the local government or someone else, or enable a person to gain a financial advantage.11.2Carmichael Rail Network –Interface Agreement
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This report is to provide Council with an overview of the content of the Carmichael Rail Network Interface Agreement for consideration and approval for execution.Resolution No.:5977 Moved: Cr Vea VeaSeconded: Cr JonesThat Council approve the Carmichael Rail Network Interface Agreement and authorise the Chief Executive Officer to execute and vary the Interface Agreement subject to:1. Consistency of the Interface Agreement with the Carmichael Mine Project Infrastructure Agreement; and 2. Satisfactory finalisation of the Interface Risk Management Plan (IRMP) Risk Assessment which is currently with an independent Rail Safety Consultant engaged by Council for review. Carried
Subject: Approval of infrastructure agreement with Adani
CONFIDENTIAL REPORT Closed under s275 (1) (h) other business for which a public discussion would be likely to prejudice the interests of the local government or someone else, or enable a person to gain a financial advantage. 11.1Infrastructure Access Agreement – Carmichael Mine and Rail Project EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Council is requested to approve the final draft agreement with Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Adani) and Carmichael Rail Network (CRN) and to authorise the Chief Executive Officer(CEO) to execute the Agreement. Resolution No.:6093 Moved: Cr JonesSeconded: Cr LaceyThat Council:1. Approves the final draft Infrastructure Access Agreement with Adani Mining Pty Ltd and Carmichael Rail Network 2. Authorises the Chief Executive Officer to finalise negotiations, execute, administer and vary the agreementto the extent that the variation or cumulative effect of the variations are not material. Carried
MEDIA RELEASE 18 October 2019 Martinus Rail partners with Adani to deliver $100 million rail contractAdani today announced the more than $100 million rail contracthas been awarded to Australian-founded and operated Martinus Rail, with the contract being delivered out of Rockhampton.In a major win for regional Queensland, the contractor will base itself out of Adani’s newly opened Rockhampton Business Centre, ensuring Rockhampton businesses and people will be in prime position to participate in the contract delivery.Adani Mining CEO Mr Lucas Dow said that more than $450million worth of contracts hadalready been awardedon the Carmichael Project, the majority toregional Queensland areas.
The Carmichael Project was redesigned in 2018 to be a 10 million tonne per annum mine and 200km railway, which will see 1,500 direct jobs and 6,750 indirect jobs created during ramp up and construction.
Siemens to deliver safety rail signaling systems for Carmichael Rail Network
After a significant competitive tender process, Siemens has been awarded acontract to deliverrail signaling systemsfor the Carmichael Rail Network.The digital system is designed to keep the trains running safely and efficiently. Siemens core technology helps avoid derailments, which secures aclean environment along the rail line.
Adani made this map and gave it to the Queensland government in 2016. The Queensland government sat on it till it was revealed in a Right to Information disclosure in 2018. Whatever person or entity made the RTI application and first received the disclosure documents made no effort to share it with the public.
I’ve shared this map with all the appropriate journalists, politicians, NGO mouthpieces and activists. I’ve made every effort to present it to those who ought to have an opinion on what it shows us about stopping the means of export for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine. I wrote about this map shortly after I found it in May 2018.
The above map ‘Attachment 2 – Map of Traditional Owner areas’ was supplied by Adani to the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) in March 2016. It was included in a RTI disclosure that was made at some point after the last document modification date of February 20, 2018. RTI 15-315 contains only content and communications generated between February 3 and April 3, 2016. The recipient of the RTI disclosure cannot be provided by DNRM staff and neither can the dates the disclosure was made available to the recipient and/or the public.
If we focused more on the political economy of the Galilee Basin coal complex we might see less aversive racism toward Traditional Owners
The featured image for this blogpost uses the map to show the approximate location of the most recent Frontline Action on Coal direct actions in the Galilee Basin in the last week. I’ve been in contact with a journalist embedded with FLAC who captured the 2 direct actions on video and has provided me with a few location details.
The direct actions on August 16 and 21 involved locking on to a drill rig on a section of Adani’s rail corridor beside the Gregory Development Road. The intersection of the rail corridor section known as Separable Portion 1 and the Gregory Development Rd is on Jangga People country.
As is always the case, the StopAdani alliance NGOs did not share content or news of FLACs direct actions. This has been happening for nearly 2 years. I wrote about it here and here.
The majority of Adani’s green field rail corridor is to be built on Jangga People country. The FLAC direct actions on August 16 and 21 represent the first of many. The StopAdani alliance member NGOs and their friends in the Climate Action Network Australia need to decide if they are more committed to the narrative they have constructed or laying the future of their institutions on the line in order to properly support frontline activists. All they have to lose is their charitable status and access to those dubious ‘impact philanthropy’ funding streams.
This is the abstract I submitted for consideration by Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), AIATSIS National Indigenous Research Conferences (ANIRC) Program Committee, for inclusion as a presentation at the 2019 AIATSIS National Research Conference: Research for the 21st Century.
My proposed presentation was declined, but I’m sharing the abstract here because I believe my questions continue to be relevant.
Green-Black Relations and the Galilee Basin Coal Complex: Political economy, aversive racism and public discourse
Mr Michael Swifte
To have a belief in protecting nature while supporting the right of Traditional Owners/Sovereign First Nations to exercise autonomy is to hold two ideas in enormous tension. It is not for me as a non-Indigenous person to tell Indigenous people how to care for nature or who they ought to negotiate with in regards to rights and interests in country.
The public discourse is influenced by particular environmental and activist groups, but do these groups represent the truth of the political economy that Indigenous peoples are confronted with on a daily basis? How do these representations shape the public consciousness and influence decision making around resource extraction projects like the Galilee Basin coal complex?
My close examination of the public discourse, many phone calls to case managers at the NNTT and ORIC, and my reading of the work of Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh and Lily O’Neill has left me with two key questions: (1) What can be learned from academic inquiry that observes the Guidelines for Ethical Research in Aboriginal and Islander Studies? (2) How can independent researchers support the kind of critical inquiry that can contribute to a more informed public discourse regarding the native title system, environmental protection and resource extraction?
My RTI disclosure documents suggest that Qld DSD staff were aware of the change of
proponent at least a day before the CG received the letter from Adani Mining Pty Ltd
confirming the change of proponent for NGBR from Adaning Mining Pty Ltd to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd. DSD staff were notified of a meeting titled ‘Adani projects — Implications of proponent name change’ on March 26, 2018 while Adani Mining’s letter to the CG arrived March 27, 2018.
Adani changed ultimate holding companies one month after the first hearing in the Senate inquiry into the NAIF.
ASIC documents show that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd changed ultimate holding
companies on September 8, 2017. (retrieved on November 14, 2018).
484 08/09/2017 08/09/2017 3 08/09/2017 7E9427173
484 Change to Company Details
484D Change to Ultimate Holding Company
484N Changes to (Members) Share Holdings
Context and confusion about rail approvals
I reported in my blogpost ‘Plan B, Separable Portion 1 and the new Adani proponent’ that
the rail line for the Carmichael mine is a fusion of 2 separate sections belonging to 2
separate projects. I pointed out that Separable Portion 1 is the remnants of the east-west
narrow gauge line that constituted the rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and
Ian Macfarlane puts the NGBR project in perspective
What’s going to happen with the groundwater application and its potential approval is that any further applicants will have not only the infrastructure to get the coal out because the railway line will be there,
Anyone can make a right to information application with the Queensland government, and some people can get information released with minimal cost if they are experiencing financial hardship. If Adani don’t try to hold up my application I will receive a disclosure document on December 10.
Come along next Monday afternoon for an informal discussion about how ordinary people, putting their heads together, can work to liberate information about the Queensland state government’s dealings with Adani.
If a disclosure is provided to me on December 10, I will make it available to anyone who attends. The disclosure will be made publicly available by the Department of State Development who coordinate the Adani projects a week later. The first week is a crucial time for analysing an RTI disclosure and creating opportunities in the media to share new and possible explosive information.
I was able to get some support from the Environmental Defender’s Office Queensland in preparing my RTI application. EDO Qld were able to identify the relevant legislation and framed the crucial language that forms the most important element of an RTI application. Key words and terms determine the searches of departmental documents and communications conducted in response to an RTI application.
On December 10, 2018 the Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning will either provide me with up to 215 pages of correspondence relating to the change of proponent for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the addition of a new proponent for the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, or they will inform me of an extension of time for consultation with a third party (Adani). The information I am seeking is significant because the new proponent is the subject of multiple approvals that could be described as being ‘stealthed’ through by multiple Queensland government departments. The new proponent is one of the Adani shell companies mentioned in the media in the lead up to last year’s NAIF inquiry and is reported to hold the royalty deed for the Carmichael mine.
The Queensland Office of the Information Commissioner determine how right to information processes are delivered across the Queensland government departments. It also reviews decisions made by government departments. In March it issued it’s judgement on the Queensland Department of Treasury decision not to release information to Greenpeace Australia Pacific. The below statement confirms the importance of access to information about Adani’s dealings.
“The Carmichael rail project is a matter of considerable community interest and debate. Disclosure of information relating to the project, such as that in issue, could reasonably be expected to promote open discussion of the ‘pros and cons’ of the project, contribute to informed debate on the project’s merits and ensure any decisions to advance public monies are made transparently and accountably.” L Lynch, Acting Right to Information Commissioner, 1 March 2018
The Office of the Information Commissioner provides guidelines for right to information officers across the Queensland government. These guidelines are very informative and can help members of the public understand how RTI officers do their job.
Adani are retaining a 200 km section of the often quoted 388km “Carmichael Rail Project” (a fictional project). That 200km section is made up of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR), Separable Portion 1 (SP1) – 78km and the remnants of the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) which we can suppose is roughly 120km.
On September 14 I had a conference call with the media team at the Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSD). They asked me a lot of questions about my interest in when and how Adani had switched proponents for the NGBR and added a joint proponent to CCMR. I gave them my theories about the ENGOs, think tanks, the Greens, and non-NewsCorp newspapers avoiding mentioning the NGBR as it would highlight the Traditional Owners who signed with Adani in 2014.
At one stage in our call the DSD media people indicated that I may have to submit a right to information request to discover the date Adani made communication with them indicating that there was a new proponent, and the date the DSD website was updated. They also said something about there being “no time limit” for Adani to inform the DSD that there was a change of proponent. The idea that there is no time limit for a change of proponent leaves me with many questions about what it took to legally change proponents (for the world’s largest proposed coal project) and how easy it may have been for Adani to stealth in a new proponent, approvals, and accreditations. Indeed the approvals and accreditations granted by the DTMR and DNRM in May and September of 2017 have confirmed to me that it is absolutely necessary to identify the exact date and procedure for transferring proponents between companies within a conglomerate like Adani.
On September 19 I received a call back from Rebecca, the Adani media person. Rebecca was able to confirm that Adani had sent a communication to the Qld DSD in March 2018 asking to change the name of the listed proponent for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) and add a new proponent to the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR). They were also able to confirm that the DSD added the new proponent names to their website, ‘project overview’ pages in May 2018. It is on these DSD hosted pages that the key project information such as EIS documents are provided.
Here’s a link to the National Library of Australia web archive showing that on March 18, 2018 Adani Mining Pty Ltd were listed as the proponent for the NGBR.
On May 15, 2017 the Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was accredited as a ‘rail transport operator’ by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR). On September 24, 2018 I sent a set of questions to DTMR asking them to provide information about how and when Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd applied for and received accreditation. I can expect a response by October 16, 2018.
Here’s a link to the download page for Rail Regulator’s Reports:
It should be noted that, according to a report by Jenny Wiggins on September 14, 2018, the Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd had no employees and $1000 in assets at the end of the 2016/17 financial year. If this is the case then DTMR gave accreditation to nothing but a shell company.
Aecom’s contract was with Carmichael Rail Network, a subsidiary of Adani. But as its most recent annual report for the year ending March 2017, the Carmichael Rail Network had no employees and only $1000 in assets.
The ABC’s Stephen Long reported in March 2017 that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd were assigned the royalty deed sold to Adani by Linc Energy in August of 2014. Long described Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as a “shell company”.
But in August 2014, in dire financial straits, Linc Energy agreed to sell the royalty deed back to Adani at a fire sale price: just $150 million.
The obvious course would have been to extinguish the royalty deed, because it represented a multi-billion-dollar liability for the mine which is ultimately owned by Adani Enterprises Ltd, the Bombay-stock exchange listed company.
Instead, the royalty deed “was assigned by Linc Energy Limited to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as trustee for Carmichael Rail Network Trust,” notes in financial reports of Adani Mining Pty Ltd say.
Carmichael Rail Network is one of a group of companies behind the proposed North Galilee Basin rail line, which Adani is currently seeking a subsidised loan of up to $1 billion from the Federal Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to build.
“What this means is that one of the companies currently seeking up to $1 billion in public subsidy is going to profit to the tune of up to $3 billion if the mine goes ahead,” Mr Walters said.
Adani Mining Pty Ltd, the proponent of the Carmichael mine and the holder of its environmental approvals, appears to have lent Carmichael Rail the funds to buy the royalty deed.
A spokesman for the Adani Group said the subsidiary assigned to the royalty right was an Australian registered and regulated company and “as such it pays all applicable Australian taxes charges”.
Long’s reporting relied on analysis from the Adam Walters at Energy and Resource Insights based in Sydney. It appears that it was Walters who provided the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, and Environmental Justice Australia intelligence regarding an Adani report to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission indicating that among the “proponents” for the “Carmichael Rail Project” is “Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd”.
2. According to company filings to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission
dated 1 July 2015, the Australian domiciled Carmichael Rail Pty Ltd and Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as trustee for the Carmichael Rail Network Trust are the “proponents of the Carmichael Rail Project”.
It was announced on June 6, 2017 that AECOM had a contract to build the rail link from the Carmichael mine to the port. While some reports used the term “Carmichael Rail Network” none specified that the contract was not with the existing proponent (according to the DSD website) Adani Mining Pty Ltd who made ILUAs for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project in 2014 and who were responsible for satisfying ‘unprecedented’ environmental conditions in seeking approvals for the Carmichael mine and associated rail corridors.
At the time of the AECOM contract announcement Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd had held rail transport operator accreditation for only 3 weeks. The announcement of the AECOM contract preceded the publication of the 2016/17 regulator’s report which also shows that Adani Mining Pty Ltd had ceased to possess accreditation.
On September 19, 2017 Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was added as an ‘approved entity’ for the purposes of ‘Riverine Protection Permit Exemption Requirements’. The available documents don’t indicate if Adani Mining Pty Ltd have ever applied for, or been added as an ‘approved entity’.
Riverine protection permits allow entities doing work around water ways of various types to conduct earth works. Exemptions are sometimes given by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines for significant works.
It is quite possible that no information was available about the ‘approved entity’ status of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd until after the creation date for the below linked document – August 7, 2018.
In early 2015 Jerome Fahrer provided an affidavit on behalf of Adani in proceedings brought by Land Services of Coast and Country Inc and Conservation Action Trust. Included in the instructions from Peter Stokes, a partner at McCullough Robertson Laywers who were engaged by Adani Mining Pty Ltd are three intriguing points.
Given that Peter Stokes was engaged and presumably briefed by Adani, the significance of the revelations made in the three points under the heading ‘Rail alignment’, must be recognised.
Once you know what “SP1” is the picture becomes clearer. SP1 stands for Separable Portion 1, the first section of the proposed 189km rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR). As the points below show, in early 2015 it was known that less than half of the CCMR rail corridor was going to be retained.
14 As you know, Adani is proceeding with the North Galilee [Basin] Rail Project alignment in preference to the full rail alignment as set out in the EIS and SEIS. The investment associated with this has been calculated at $2.2 billion.
15 However, a portion (but not all) of SP1 as presented in the EIS and SEIS will also be constructed, representing the first approximately 70 kilometres of the rail leading from the mine itself. The investment associated with the whole of the rail aspect of the project is approximately $2.5B (inclusive of contingency and transactional costs).
16 The revised SP1 alignment will no longer connect directly with the existing Goonyella or Newlands rail system.
The reason that the admissions made in the instructions to Jerome Fahrer are so significant is because they show that the “rail” component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) had been reduced to less than half only months after the final approvals were given by state and federal governments.
The name of the CCMR suggests that it’s rail component is so significant that it needed to be included in the project name unlike most mines which do not include the rail component in the name. Indeed the majority of Separable Portion 1 is located on Jannga country. The Jannga People represented by Bulganunna Aboriginal Corporation made 2 ILUAs with Adani Mining Pty Ltd for both the NGBR and CCMR. The National Native Title Tribunal numbers for the two Jannga-Adani ILUAs are: QI2014/065 and QI2014/022.
The reality is that the rail component of the CCMR as indicated on the DSD website ‘project overview’ page was effectively severed from the mine project in late 2014 or early 2015. It’s likely that the Jannga People ILUA for the CCMR covers Separable Portion 1 and the Jannga People ILUA for the NGBR covers the remnant Plan B corridor which extends to the eastern boundary of the Jannga People’s determination area.
Separable Portion 1 is only mentioned in two types of documents: EIS documents for the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR), and two documents associated with Jerome Fahrer and the consulting firm he leads called ACIL Allen.
In my briefing in the lead up to the senate NAIF inquiry in 2017 I highlight an unreferenced statement about the composition of the 388km the “rail link” by ACIL Allen in their report for the NAIF inquiry commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The rail link comprises the 78-km Carmichael rail project from the mining and processing operation to Mistake Creek, and the 310-km North Galilee Basin Rail (NGBR) project from Mistake Creek to Abbot Point. The NGBR facility will be accessible by other enterprises.
Here’s a quote from an archive copy of the Adani Australia website, media releases section from November 1, 2015 (the earliest available).
The NGBR, the principal component of the company’s planned 388 km rail link from Carmichael to the port at Abbot Point, will be Queensland’s first standard gauge rail line, helping drive lower costs for Adani and other producers by with the longest, highest capacity trains for coal haulage in Australia.
The above statement is an acknowledgement of the reality of the fictional “Carmichael Rail Project”. If NGBR is the “principle” component, then Separable Portion 1 is the secondary component. By a fictional creation, a fake name that was unquestioned in the media, among ENGO spokespeople, and their think tank allies Adani masked the composition of their rail link. Through the withholding of information by both Adani and the Queensland and federal governments no reliable or intelligible information sources existed when needed. This created a situation where marginalised Traditional Owners, campaign groups, and the public could not analyse and determine what was really happening.
Additionally, the acknowledgements made in the instructions given by Adani Mining Pty Ltd legal representatives were entirely ignored by organisations like the Australian Conservation Foundation and Land Services of Coast and Country Inc. These organisations are well networked into the StopAdani coalition/alliance. Ignoring the significance of Separable Portion 1 may have strategically disadvantaged collective efforts at preventing the advancement of the Adani’s rail corridor plans.
The statement below from the introduction to the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) EIS documents shows that Adani preferred the more direct route offered by the NGBR. I am left wondering if Adani ever intended to actually build the rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR). It seems quite possible that they pursued a less desirable corridor in order to attach a significant rail project to the mine. By presenting a fictional name for the connected rail projects created the suggestion that the NGBR was part of the mine project itself and not a separate project.
The proposed Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project includes a 120 km portion of dual gauge rail that will run west to east from the mine site to Diamond Creek, and a 69 km narrow gauge portion that will run east from Diamond Creek and connect to the Goonyella rail system south of Moranbah. This would enable carriage of product coal over the existing narrow gauge networks either directly to the Port of Hay Point (Dudgeon Point Expansion) or indirectly to the Port of Abbot Point. As such, the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project rail infrastructure offers a short-term incremental solution that maintains port optionality, but is primarily only a medium – to long – term solution for export directly to Dudgeon Point.
Dual port capability for the export of coal is required by Adani to insure against potential force majeure conditions that may affect one of the mine-to-port supply chain routes. In addition, dual port capability will help to accommodate any future production increases from Adani and/or third-party mines in the Galilee Basin, which may exceed the capacity of one port. Given Adani’s interests in the existing and proposed export facilities at the Port of Abbot Point ( refer Section 1.4), a highly efficient, long-term and more direct transport route to the port was identified as a key business requirement.
Cut n paste journalists and busy people, could, and have quite reasonably assumed that the viability of the rail line would be impacted by any success achieved by the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council in their efforts to stop the mine. These assumption were made possible by the absence of investigation of the political and economic context of the negotiation of ILUAs for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. As I have pointed out many many times, the Stop Adani coalition/alliance NGOs and think tanks, the Fairfax, Guardian Australia, and ABC have consistently avoided investigating the reality of the diversity of Traditional Owners in the Galilee Basin coal complex area.
Here’s a map that was provided to DNRM in March 2016 and only made available in a right to information disclosure in February 2018. Neither Adani nor the Queens;land government saw fit to release this very enlightening map when it would have been valuable for public understanding. I have not been able to ascertain which organisation made the initial RTI (DNRM 15-315) that yielded this map. I am left to assume that they did not have an interest in sharing it with the public.