The ‘final investment decision’ taken by Adani this week leaves many near and long term questions unanswered about the project’s viability

Campaign groups in Australia have mounted a wide-ranging campaign against the Carmichael coal mine (Photo: John Englart)

Indian mining firm Adani yesterday announced that its board had approved plans to proceed with the controversial Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

But it is still far from clear whether Adani has actually obtained the finance to proceed with the A$16.5 billion project, or whether it has secured the necessary A$1.1bn loan from the government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility needed for the mine’s railway.

That hasn’t stopped the state government hailing the announcement as an economic win for Queensland, on the basis of job creation and for the signals it provides to potential investors in the region. But this amounts to little more than short-sighted politics. The government appears to be steadfastly ignoring the realities of the current energy landscape.

Let’s recap: coal mining is not economically viable within the constraints of a global carbon budget, while renewable energy production is rapidly expanding as the world moves to more sustainable investments.

The result is that coal projects could become stranded assets, with price tags that may already exceed what would have been the costs of a timely implementation of climate action. Investors and lending institutions are shifting to sustainable projects that limit the risk of catastrophic environmental damage.

The Queensland state government owns the coal resource, but it is a special type of ownership. This is “public resource” ownership, meaning that all decisions made by the state government to exploit it must be in the interest of the public as a whole.

Report: Fund considering Adani coal mine loan ‘obsessed with secrecy’

Issuing resource titles that allow Adani to proceed with a vast coal mine – in defiance of the social, economic and environmental impacts of such a project within a carbon-constrained economy – arguably represents a dereliction of the state’s duty to act in the public interest.

It also ignores the fact that in order to have just a 50% chance of keeping global warming within 2C, a key aim of the Paris climate agreement, 90% of…