Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd were mentioned in the Hindenberg Report. They are said to hold the royalty deed for the Carmichael mine. They are the entity responsible for the construction and the operation of the Carmichael Rail Network under Queensland law.
Is it even a shell company?
I refer to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRNPL) as a shell company because, while they are in theory connected to significant operational activity, their real operations are rarely reported in association with the actual name of the company. All the CRNPL contact points and communications are conducted through unspecified entities under the ‘Bravus’ (Bravus Mining and Resources) business name. They are an entity with no acknowledged employees, no dedicated website and no LinkedIn page.
In need of close examination
There is every reason to closely monitor the approvals provided to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRNPL) and the work of the regulatory agencies that are responsible for rail safety, competition, environmental approvals and cultural heritage. But close examination of Adani’s most active and crucial entity in Australia, whose operations are routinely reported by media, government and regulatory agencies under the Bravus business name is not happening.
The success of the entire Carmichael coal complex from port to pit is contingent on Adani keeping the ‘multi-user promise’ which is connected to any future royalty deal. Adani must make their rail facility available to multiple users, this is where the regulatory responsibilities of the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) will apply once they have been given permission from the Queensland treasurer Cameron Dick.
It is important to look at Adani’s messaging in regard to operational responsibility and third party access. The Bravus web page for the Carmichael Rail Network (CRN) does not mention the name of Adani’s rail proponent. Indeed it identifies Bowen Rail Company as the operator despite clear evidence that CRNPL are an accredited operator of the CRN:
The Carmichael Rail Network is operated by Bowen based business, Bowen Rail Company
The same web page includes a link to the CRN Access Policy in reference to its commitment to operating a multi-user facility:
The Carmichael Railway is a multi-user facility with third party access available in accordance with the Access Policy contained at this link.
A staff member at the QCA recently acknowledged to me that their organisation does not receive copies of new access agreements made between access seekers and access providers. The QCA Act does not require that operators regulated by the QCA provide the competition regulator with acknowledgement that an access agreement has been made let alone provide documents. When I asked the QCA staff member about the Carmichael Rail Network Access Policy approved by “the state” in December 2021 they had nothing to say.
The CRN Access Policy is utterly relevant to the work of the QCA. It sets up a framework for third parties, like other Galilee Basin coal mining companies, to access the CRN facility. Foreseeable demand is the trigger for the Queensland government to permit the QCA to begin investigating and reporting on the CRN. The issue here is the requisite evidence of foreseeable demand required by the Queensland treasurer. As long as third parties negotiate privately, and even if they make access agreements, the available evidence will not likely be seen as substantive. Cameron Dick and the Queensland government are in a position to delay engaging the competition regulator at their leisure.
We can reasonably assume that CRNPL and Aurizon have an access agreement because correspondence to the QCA in November 2022 from a Bravus consultant and former Queensland Rail and Aurizon employee asserted in November 2022 that Bravus (CRNPL) is “an existing Access Holder”. The same consultant asserted in October 2022 that “we rely on using ad hoc train services to meet our demand”.
A letter provided to Charles Milsteed (QCA) by Stephen Straughan, a consultant to Bravus Mining and Resources on 7 October 2022 asserts that coal is being transported on an “ad hoc” basis along the Aurizon Network. The letter also asserts that there is an “access application”.
As a result, forecast demand is likely to be materially less than actual demand for rail capacity as it does not reflect how capacity is actually utilised in practice. While we wait for additional capacity to be provided by Aurizon Network under our Newlands access application, we rely on using ad hoc train services to meet our demand. These ad hoc services make up a sizable portion of our weekly train orders and utilize unused capacity (contracted to others or otherwise) up to the maximum capacity available.
A letter provided to Charles Milsteed (QCA) by Stephen Straughan, a consultant to Bravus Mining and Resources on 4 November 2022 and published on the QCA website asserts that Bravus (CRNPL) are an “Access Holder”.
Bravus would also like to note our view on these matters have been formed from our experience as both an existing Access Holder with a significant stake in Newlands, and as an Access Seeker of additional capacity from Newlands including short term transfers from GAPE. This has provided Bravus with a broad and unique perspective with regards to the RWG proposal and other matters we have raised in our submissions.
Who approved the CRN access policy?
On 27 February 2023 the Queensland Treasury responded to my request for administrative release of information regarding approval of the access policy with a letter containing this statement:
In response to your enquiry as to the approval process, I can inform you that Queensland’s Coordinator General approved the CRN Access Policy on 22 December 2021 following an extensive review process.Patrick Wildie, Assistant Under Treasurer, Economic and Fiscal Group, Queensland Treasury, 27/2/23
I have forwarded this letter to the Office of the Coordinator-General and have asked if they can direct me to any documents on the public record confirming that the Coordinator-General approved the access policy.
The answer to my question should help me get a better sense of the legislative silences that allowed the bare minimum of information about the approval of the access policy to enter the public record. By legislative silences I refer to actions, processes and obligations specified under the relevant acts that do not require government departments and ministers to place particular documents or records of actions on the public record. It stands to reason that a company like Adani would be motivated to use every legal means to give themselves an advantage.
Unknown Adani entities under investigation
On 10 February 2023 Newscorp papers (The Daily Mercury) published a story on a signalling failure on the Carmichael Rail Network that could have lead to a collision. The article states that the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) are investigating the incident. On 14 February 2023 I spoke with a member of the coms team at ONRSR who told me they provided the media with a statement confirming that they are conducting an investigation, but did not say which of the 2 Adani entities that possess ONRSR accreditations are under investigation. The ONRSR does not publish media releases regarding its investigations. I could not discern if confirmation of the specific entities under investigation will ever take place. The 2 Adani entities regulated by the ONRSR are Bowen Rail Company and Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd.
I have submitted an administrative release request with the ONRSR under the South Australia, Freedom of Information Act 1991. My question to the ONRSR is straight forward and reasonable:
Which ONRSR regulated/accredited entities operating on the Carmichael Rail Network are under investigation for the ‘stop signal error’ reported by Duncan Evans on 10 February 2023?
Splitting the approvals
Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRNPL) were Adani’s secret rail proponent for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project for at least 18 months before the Office of the Coordinator-General (OCG) made changes to the relevant project pages in June 2018.
CRNPL possess the rail operator accreditations and a riverine protection permit, but it is Adani Mining Pty Ltd that possess the environmental approvals and the Traditional Owner agreements. While CRNPL are the proponent for the purposes of rail, Adani Mining Pty Ltd identify themselves as the proponent for the purposes of environmental approvals.
A statement from the most recent EPBC compliance report illustrates that Adani Mining Pty Ltd see themselves as the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) proponent for the purposes of Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) compliance despite the fact that the proponent listed for that project by the OCG is CRNPL.
It is noted that Adani Mining Pty Ltd has updated its trading name relevant to CCMR, to Bravus
Mining and Resources. For the purposes of this report the proponent is hereon in referred to as
‘Bravus’ however it is acknowledged that the approval holder remains as ‘Adani Mining Pty Ltd’.
Responsibility for the whole CRN project is split between 2 proponents because 2 different Adani entities are responsible for answering to regulators. The proponent that was installed secretly, CRNPL, is now the official rail proponent while the original rail proponent Adani Mining Pty Ltd continues to control how environmental regulation is reported regarding the NGBR project for which it is not the listed proponent under state law.
Many questions remain
On 13 September 2018 Adani announced that they were changing the ‘design’ of their “Carmichael Project” rail accompanied by a map showing the corridor that is a combination of the first section of mine rail known as Separable Portion 1 and the shortened section of the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) designed to connect to the Aurizon network.
The Office of the Coordinator-General has not updated their project pages for Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) or NGBR to reflect the new rail corridor design. Why is this the case? Surely such a significant change to a project of this scale should result in updated information from the coordinating agency? Surely the absence of key information should have triggered some questions being asked by the media and the climate NGOs?
Journalists and commentators routinely misrepresent the nature of the Bravus brand. Bravus Mining and Resources is a business name owned by Adani Mining Pty Ltd, but used to refer to multiple Adani entities. Bravus is not a “subsidiary” or the “new name” of Adani Mining Pty Ltd, it is an umbrella brand applied to an unspecified group of entities termed the “Bravus Group”. ‘Bravus Mining and Resources’ is not the name that appears on any of the Carmichael approvals, accreditations, permits or licences. Why are government departments, investigators, NGO spokespeople and journalists routinely misrepresenting Adani’s corporate structure and never questioning what the ‘Bravus’ brand was set up to do? Why do government departments and regulators refuse to act proactively by placing the names of the entities they are coordinating/regulating/investigating on the public record in spite of the various silences in the relevant legislation?
The media and the NGOs clearly don’t comprehend the importance of interrogating the activities of Adani’s most active shell company. We have to assume that third party coal mining companies will continue to develop plans in private. Adani have stated that they have been approached by third parties, but the regulatory arrangements put the decision making power in the hands of the Queensland government which is choosing not to act in a fully transparent manner. The Queensland Competition Authority needs to be empowered now to give it oversight over the Adani shell company that is ensuring that the worst case scenario can take place.