Why SBI is under the spotlight to reject a billion-dollar loan to Adani’s Australia mine

31 December 2020
Protesters against Adani's Carmichael coal mine project march through the streets of Brisbane, in Australia, in July 2019. The Stop Adani campaign has spearheaded massive mobilisation against the project. As of 30 December 2020, at least 90 organisations—including finance, transportation and insurance companies—had declared that they would not continue their relations with the Carmichael mine project.
Glenn Hunt / Getty Images
Protesters against Adani's Carmichael coal mine project march through the streets of Brisbane, in Australia, in July 2019. The Stop Adani campaign has spearheaded massive mobilisation against the project. As of 30 December 2020, at least 90 organisations—including finance, transportation and insurance companies—had declared that they would not continue their relations with the Carmichael mine project.
Glenn Hunt / Getty Images

In early December, three major global financial institutions warned the State Bank of India against extending a loan to the Adani Group’s controversial Carmichael coal mine in Australia. The three organisations—BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager; Amundi, Europe’s largest asset manager; and Storebrand ASA, a Norweigian financial-services company—all hold investments with SBI. The trio are the latest of several major investors, insurers and banks that reached out to SBI in the wake of media reports that the bank would grant the Adani Group a loan of Rs 5,000 crore—or $1 billion—to fund the coal project.

Just days before, a group of protesters had assembled in front of the Sydney Cricket Ground to protest the proposed loan. Two protestors even interrupted a match between India and Australia by running into the pitch, holding up placards that read, “State Bank of India No $I Billion Adani Loan.” A media release by the Galilee Blockade—one of several environmental groups opposing the mine—stated, “Millions of Indian taxpayers who are watching the first game of the Indian cricket tour have a right to know that the State Bank of India is considering handing their taxes to a billionaire’s climate wrecking coal mine.”

The Adani Group first announced its plans to setup the Carmichael mine in 2010, proposing to build it in the vast untapped coal reserves of the Galilee Basin in Queensland, a state in north-eastern Australia. Although Adani was not the first to propose mining the Galilee, the other companies appeared to depend on the infrastructure that the Indian conglomerate had proposed. This infrastructure included an airfield to transport workers, and a rail line to connect the mine to Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal. According to a Greenpeace report released in 2012, there were nine proposed mines in the Galilee Basin by that year, which would produce a collective total of 330 million tonnes of coal per year, releasing 705 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The Carmichael coal mine would lead the pack. Carmichael is among the world’s biggest greenfield coal mine project—coal fields that are previously unexplored. Adani proposed an annual production of 60 million tonnes, which alone would lead to carbon emissions that threaten the country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement of 2015, an international treaty in which countries resolved to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The mine would also draw 12.5 billion litres of water from Australia’s Suttor river every year and threaten the survival of the Great Barrier Reef.

The campaign against Adani has seen participation from numerous environmental and civil-society groups, which have spearheaded massive protests against the group’s mining operations. This included mobilisation on the massive greenhouse emissions it would cause amid a losing battle against climate change, the encroachment of land belonging to the indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou people, and pressurising corporates to stop funding Adani.

Nileena MS is a staff writer at The Caravan. She can be reached at nileenams@protonmail.com.

Keywords: Adani Group Gautam Adani Australia Coal mining environmentalism
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