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Australia Debates: Does a Warming Planet Really Need More Coal?

An enormous expansion at Abbot Point, Australia’s most northern deep water coal port, is planned as part of a controversial mining project. Credit David Maurice Smith for The New York Times
Jacqueline Williams, New York Times, Oct 15 2017 - 10:45

ABBOT POINT, Australia — In a desolate corner of northeastern Australia, about 100 miles from the nearest town, a grassy stretch of prime grazing land sits above a vein of coal so rich and deep that it could be mined for decades.

The Australian government is considering a proposal to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in this remote locale, known as the Galilee Basin, where acacia and eucalyptus trees grow wild between scattered creeks.

An Indian conglomerate, the Adani Group, has asked for a taxpayer-financed loan of as much as $800 million to make the enormous project viable, promising to create thousands of jobs in return.

But the plan has met intense opposition in Australia and abroad, focusing attention on a question with global resonance: Given the threat of climate change and the slowing global demand for coal, does the world really need another giant mine, especially at the public’s expense?

Adani has proposed building six open-cut pits and five underground complexes capable of producing as much as 66 million tons of coal a year. New infrastructure to support the mine — a rail line to the coast and an expanded port — would also make it economically feasible to extract coal from at least eight additional sites in the Galilee Basin.