India’s Adani Group has taken more solid steps towards developing the controversial Carmichael thermal mine in Queensland.
The Indian company has awarded construction contracts worth US$150 million for site preparation and construction of a 390-km rail line to the coast.
It has also chosen the coastal towns of Rockhampton and Townsville as feeder airport links to fly in thousands of mine site workers, Mining Australia said. An airstrip at the mine site is being developed.
“After eight years of challenge, the Carmichael project is underway, signalling the opening of the Galilee Basin which will drive the growth of the emerging Asian Tiger economies including India,” Adani Australia CEO Jeyakumar Jankaraj was quoted saying.
Adani still faced objections and disruption from anti-fossil fuel activist groups but the multibillion dollar project was now “underway,” he said.
The state government in Brisbane backs the Carmichael mine, which it sees as offering thousands of jobs in a depressed region, the Australian Financial Review said.
Adani is still piecing together the financing it needs for the full development of the mine, including a request for a loan of A$900 million (US$698 million) from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund to support the railway construction.
Adani Australia aims to have its finances finalised by next March and is considering selling minority stakes in Carmichael, the Review said.
The company is now targeting first exports for Carmichael from its Abbot Point terminal during 2020.
Initial annual production will be a maximum 18 million tonnes, rising to 27 million tonnes, the paper said quoting unnamed managers. This is a sharp scale back from original plans to produce 60 million tonnes a year.
Most of the Carmichael coal is expected to be shipped to India to feed coastal thermal power plants (TPPs) which need high grade fuel for their supercritical boilers.
As recent as June, India’s Energy Minister Piyush Goyal was still talking about ending coal imports, saying domestic mines could meet demand.
However, amid recent reports of shortages affecting some TPPs, Coal India Limited (CIL) last week admitted that its April-September production was 11 million tonnes, or 4.7% short of the government’s target, the Live Mint financial website said.