As Adani and Downer call it quits, it's getting harder and harder to be relentlessly positive about the prospects of the Carmichael Coal Mine.
It's getting harder and harder to be relentlessly positive about the Adani project with the lack of good news coming out about major hurdles faced by the project. But I’ve made my Christmas wish to the big man in red, and my wish is that everyone stops the bluster and the project goes ahead.
That said, every morning we get slammed with bad news, I tell myself the same thing. “It’s OK Sal, Roy Hill took 11 years to get off the ground. It's all part of it. Gina didn’t stop at a no, neither will Adani”.
But again – the ABC will have you believe that the gravediggers have got that last nail in the coffin with the mutual ending of the relationship between Downer Mining and Adani, but when you think it through reasonably it makes sense that Adani is reviewing its operational strategy for the mine. They’ve had a $1 billion loan cancelled by the will-they-won’t-they QLD state government, which vastly changes the economics of the establishment of the mine.
Downer was also awarded the mining contract some 24 months ago, and much has changed since. Also, I’ve never known a commercial ‘quote’ to be current for 2 full years. No doubt both companies have spent a fortune in the tendering phase that would all need to be redone once it progresses. Nothing can seriously linger for that long, while all the moving pieces change around it. How long is Downer expected to wait, cap in hand, for the mine to start operating when there are so many question marks around how it’s being funded?
In reality – the biggest problem is, and always has been, Adani’s struggle to gain financial backing for the project. And despite what you read, or even the excuse that Chinese would-be backers recently made for passing on financing the project – it’s not for reasons that the climate change advocates would have you believe.
Adani’s corporate structure, and its desire to keep its coal operations completely separated from other enterprises on its balance sheet means that the coal business alone does not represent a safe, low-risk investment when the coal price is so prone to wild fluctuations. Adani is not willing to put the correct amount of skin in the game, and so neither is any financial institution. Couple that with the fact that the Australian government is not providing funding for the establishment of the necessary infrastructure to transport the coal from the Galilee Basin, and you’ve got a righteous cluster of stakeholders standing on the edge of the iceberg waiting for the first penguin to jump.
There are plenty of mines, and plenty of coal mines still being established all over the world, so the fact that this project, which has a strong economic model supported by excellent coal quality and a buyer with growing demand, is struggling to get funding isn’t down to the unpopularity of coal. The problem sits with the general financial structure of the project which provides inadequate security for everyone involved. And not one of the backers considering the project would ever come out and publicly embarrass Adani if the security or governance structure isn’t right. It's easy to blame their non-existent corporate social responsibility policies instead.
Sadly – relentless bureaucracy and red tape are challenges all major mining projects face in this country and years of back-forth, to-and-fro, yes-and-no is what any enterprising miner now faces in this skittish, hot-button zeitgeist of professional progress blockers and serial commercial litigators pestering the mining industry. Anyone trying to establish a perfectly profitable, commercial mining project in Australia can just expect years and years of bullsh*t from every man and their dog (or lizard, frog or endangered gecko), and their lawyers.
Dear Santa – all I want for Christmas, for everyone in Queensland, is for everyone to wake up to themselves and for this project to go ahead (and an Apple TV).