Is it time for Adani Mining to raise the white flag on its Carmichael project?
The Guardian reported yesterday the company has stopped engineering work on the $16.5 billion project, advising four major engineering contractors to stop work around the mine including the joint venture rail line and expansion of Abbot Point port.
According to the Guardian report, it makes no sense halting work at this stage even as a savings measure, raising speculation the company is preparing to scrap the massive project.
Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said to stop work at this stage “just crucifies the project, it all goes out the window”.
“The minute Adani stops moving forward, the project is just dead, in my view,” Buckley said. “And the reason is you’ve got billions of dollars of debt in Australia and they’ve got this interest bill.
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“They’ve been drawing a line in the sand and that is that they need financial close by October 2015.”
Adani Mining released a statement supporting its commitment to the Carmichael project:
"For the past six to 12 months, Adani has maintained a level of investment, jobs and sub-contractor engagement for its mine, rail and port projects in anticipation of finalising approvals and decisions. The project budget was based, understandably, on these anticipated approvals timelines and milestones," the company said in a statement.
"As a result of changes to a range of approvals over that time, it’s necessary to synchronise our budget, project timelines and spending to meet those changes. Adani has made a commitment to build a long term future with Queensland that will deliver 10,000 jobs and $22 billion in royalties and taxes that will be reinvested back into community services.
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"However, it is important to note we are now into the fifth year of development and approvals and therefore the need to finalise those approvals and timelines is critical."
To add insult to injury, a new report by the Climate Council says coal mining in the Galilee Basin – the Carmichael coal mine location -- is not environmentally or economically sustainable.
“If we’re to stay in within carbon budget and avoid dangerous climate change, we can't have any new coal developments anywhere around the planet,” said Professor Tim Flannery, chief councilor and co-author of the report.
“In fact we're going to have to close prematurely a quite a number of coal mines if we were to stay within that budget.
“So economically it doesn't make sense, and analysts say they can't see a recovery in the coal price for years into the future, so economically the mine doesn't make sense and as I said environmentally it doesn't make sense either.”
Since its inception the Carmichael coal project has faced a wide array of criticism from environmentalists and Indigenous Landholders. Heightened pressure to protect the Great Barrier Reef has caused major roadblocks for the project as well as mounting lawsuits.
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.