Adani Group's Port Expansion Project Near Great Barrier Reef 'On Hold'
An expansion project at Abbot Point Terminal in Queensland – one of the biggest coal terminals in Australia – has temporarily reached a roadblock. Deutsche Bank has refused to fund the project spearheaded by Adani Enterprises, owner of the port.
The Abbot Point project may have further trouble finding funding as Unesco, world heritage agency, has warned that the project would risk damaging the fragile ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia’s crown jewels of tourism and environment. Unesco has further warned that it will place the Great Barrier Reef on the endangered list because of the port expansion.
The local government in Australia has approved the project, but financing could still be an issue. If the public is openly against the project, the tide could turn against the company, and force potential financiers to withdraw support and funds.
Juergen Fitschen, co-CEO of Deutsche Bank, has made it clear to the company’s shareholders that the bank would not be involved.
“There is no consensus between Unesco and the Australian government regarding the expansion of Abbot Point in the vicinity of the Great Barrier Reef. Our policy requires such a consensus at the least. We therefore would not consider applications for the financing of an expansion any further,” Forbes reported.
Deutsche Bank has previously arranged financing for other companies at the Abbot Point port. The decision was reached by the bank after a successful campaign was levied by environmental activists concerned about the integrity of the site.
As India’s largest coal importer, Adani Enterprises bought the Abbot Point Terminal for around $2 billion in May of 2011 to increase its access to more energy resources. The move came to meet the rising demand in power for India.
The expansion project has been controversial from the start. Although it would open billions of dollars worth of coal reserves, it would, in turn, require millions of tons of sediment to be dumped near the reef, potentially endangering the site.
There is still a good chance the company will be able to find financing from other banks and organizations because of the size of the project, but the company will have to manoeuver carefully, so as not to alienate environmental concerns.
British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.