No loans, big protests, naked models: Adani’s coal mine project in Australia has seen it all

Adani’s plans for the controversial Carmichael coal mine in Australia have received another blow.

On Dec. 18, the Indian multinational announced that its inability to secure government funding for a part of the project had forced it to cancel its A$2 billion ($1.5 billion) contract with Downer EDI, an Australian’s engineering and infrastructure services provider.

Last week, the Queensland government decided to veto the A$900 million ($689.59 million) potential federal funding for a new rail link required for Australia’s largest coal mine, which would’ve come from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

“Following on from the NAIF veto last week and in line with its vision to achieve the lowest quartile cost of production by ensuring flexibility and efficiencies in the supply chain, Adani has decided to develop and operate the mine on an owner operator basis,” the company said in a statement.

Even though Adani’s Carmichael mine had received support from Australia’s federal and state governments previously, the newly re-elected administration in Queensland shot down the NAIF funding, arguing that the project must be viable without taxpayer funds. The Carmichael mine, including related infrastructure development, is expected to cost more than $15 billion.

Gujarat-based Adani bought the Carmichael mine in northeastern Australia’s Galilee Basin for $500 million in 2010, and should likely have been aware of the project’s infrastructural complexities. The mine requires a 388km railway line to connect it to the Queensland coast, apart from an expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal, which could pose a risk to the Great Barrier Reef.

The project has faced consistent opposition within Australia, with activists describing the campaign against the Carmichael mine as “the biggest environmental movement” in the country’s history. From smaller protests in 2014, when a prominent Australian model shed her clothes in opposition to the mine, the momentum against the project has grown in recent months. In early October, for instance, thousands came out across the country in protest against Adani’s plans.

Environmental concerns aside, Adani has had trouble getting its finances in order to build the largest coal mine in Australia. At least 21 banks, both Australian and international, have reportedly declined funding for the project. This includes lenders like Deutsche Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and other Chinese firms. The company is looking to raise $1.5 billion by March 2018 in order to complete the first stage of its proposed mine.

None of this was entirely unexpected. “The Australian coal projects require large allied infrastructure investment and high leverage, making it challenging to achieve financial closure,” Debasish Mishra, a partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, told Bloomberg back in 2014. “Some of the Indian players who have invested in Australia may be better off exiting these investment even at a loss.” Moreover, the rise of the renewable energy industry, alongside concerns over large fossil fuel projects, have only added to the momentum against gigantic mines like Carmichael.

Despite these roadblocks, Adani said it remains committed to the Carmichael project and that the jobs of the 800 people it employs in Queensland will not be affected by this move: “This is simply a change in management structure and ensures that the mine will ultimately be run out of our Adani Australia offices in Townsville.”

Article originally posted by qz.

California ‘Horror’ Fires Kill At Least 40 People In One Week

By Heather Somerville

SANTA ROSA (Reuters) – Authorities hope weaker winds will help more than 10,000 firefighters battle the deadliest blazes in California history, which have killed at least 40 people and destroyed thousands of structures in one of the state’s worst natural disasters in years.

Fast-moving fires spread by shifting winds forced thousands more to evacuate their homes on Saturday as the death toll over the week rose to 40, with hundreds missing.

More than 10,000 firefighters supported by air tankers and helicopters battled 16 major wildfires in areas north of San Francisco that have consumed nearly 214,000 acres (86,000 hectares), or roughly 334 square miles (865 sq km) – an area larger than New York City.

David McNew via Getty Images
Flames rise behind Ledson Winery on October 14, 2017 in Kenwood, near Santa Rosa, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

The 40 confirmed fatalities, including 22 in Sonoma County, make it California’s deadliest-ever fire event, surpassing the 29 deaths from the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles.

With 235 people still missing on Saturday in Sonoma County alone and rubble from thousands of incinerated dwellings yet to be searched, authorities expect the death toll to climb.

Some 100,000 people have been forced from their homes, including 3,000 on Saturday from the city of Santa Rosa, about 50 miles (80 km) north of San Francisco. The fires have damaged or destroyed about 5,700 structures, reducing homes and businesses to ash.

Some victims were asleep when flames engulfed their homes, while others had only minutes to flee.

Stephen Lam / Reuters
Search and Rescue teams search for two missing people amongst ruins at Journey’s End Mobile Home Park destroyed by the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, California, U.S. October 13, 2017. (REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

“This is truly one of the greatest tragedies that California has ever faced. The devastation is just unbelievable. It is a horror that no one could have imagined,” California Governor Jerry Brown said on a visit to a devastated city.

Janis and Roberto Lucha joined people lining up at a Federal Emergency Management Agency office in Santa Rosa, seeking help after losing their home of 27 years in the city’s Coffey Park neighborhood, where most homes burned to the ground.

Molly Kurland, 63, joined a packed community meeting at the Santa Rosa High School gymnasium.

“Even for people who haven’t lost their house, the uncertainty and anxiety is tremendous,” she said.

But there were heroic stories as well.

Teen-aged twins woke their parents on Sunday night to find fire engulfing the landscape.

The persistent alarms from Benjamin Lasker, 16, gave the family time to escape the conflagration with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Benjamin and his twin sister, Natalie, went on to awaken another eight families in their Fountain Grove neighborhood in Santa Rosa, pounding on doors, yelling “Fire!” and shining lights in windows.

“They asked permission to wake people up,” Howard Lasker told Reuters, adding “I gave it to them.”

David McNew via Getty Images
The ruins of houses destroyed by the Tubbs Fire are seen near Fountaingrove Parkway on October 14, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

GLIMMERS OF HOPE

There were some glimmers of hope as winds weakened and firefighters made progress with blazes such as the Cascade Fire, about 80 miles northeast of Santa Rosa, which was nearly 10,000 acres and 87 percent contained on Saturday, Cal Fire said.

Weakening winds overnight should help but high temperatures and dry conditions were expected to remain through the weekend, forecasters said.

”This is still very much in play. The danger is still very present,” said U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California who accompanied Brown.

At least a dozen Napa Valley and Sonoma County wineries were damaged or destroyed, throwing the state’s wine industry and related tourism into disarray.

For the picturesque Napa Valley town of Calistoga, now evacuated, the winds were a double-edged sword. The town was spared by hazardous winds when they shifted, but Mayor Chris Canning warned a resurgence could pose a new threat.

Elijah Nouvelage via Getty Images
Firefighters walk through the Fountaingrove neighborhood on October 13, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Fire officials said the Tubbs fire, between Calistoga and Santa Rosa, was about 50 percent contained, while another in wine country, the Atlas fire, was at 45 percent. But the Nuns fire west of Napa was only 15 percent contained.

Others, including the Sulphur and the Redwood Valley fires, were at 70 percent and 30 percent containment, respectively, while the Oakmont was at only 10 percent.

Firefighters from Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah are helping battle the blazes.

Aircraft have dropped more than 2 million gallons (7.6 million liters) of fire retardant.

Cal Fire estimated the fires would be contained by Oct. 20.

The year’s wildfire season is one of the worst in history in the United States, with nearly 8.6 million acres (3.5 million hectares) burned as of Oct. 13, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The worst on record for the same period in a year was 9.3 million acres in 2015.

(Reporting by Heather Somerville; Writing by Jon Herskovitz and Chris Michaud; Editing by Robert Birsel)