The environmental movement is up in arms over a move towards federal funding of up to $1b for a railway that will serve Adani’s proposed Queensland coal mine.
A $2.2b rail link to Adani’s huge Carmichael mine in the untapped Galilee basin has gained conditional approval for a commonwealth loan, days before its billionaire promoter, Gautam Adani, is due to meet state and federal political leaders.
The 310km North Galilee Basin Rail Project has met the economic, financial and employmentconditions for a 50% loan over five years under the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF), the Courier-Mail reported.
The railway, which will open up coalfields that reef scientists argue must remain untapped for the survival of the Great Barrier Reef, will require more detailed assessment before the NAIF panel agrees to fund it.
The preliminary approval of the loan, one of 80 unmet funding requests to the NAIF, was news to Queensland government ministers familiar with the project on Saturday, Guardian Australia confirmed.
Last week, Australia sent a progress report to Unesco on its conservation plan to save the reef, which has lost 22% of coral after its worst ever bleaching event this year.
Previous Unesco scrutiny of a possible “in danger” listing for the World Heritage site was prompted in part by Adani’s earlier plans to expand its Abbot Point coal port through dumping dredged seabed in reef waters.
Those plans were scrapped before the Queensland government banned capital dredge from being dumped at sea and insisted Adani gain “financial close” on its $22b coal project before the Abbot Point expansion could begin.
It also ruled out state funding of hundreds of millions of dollars for the Galilee rail project that was flagged under the former Newman Liberal National government.
The Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said the loan would be “a serious misuse of public money”, claiming Adani had “a mining licence but no social licence”.
She said if Adani was unable to ultimately fund the mine, “Australia will be left with a railway to nowhere and an unpaid billion-dollar loan”.
“The NAIF board must release the assessment documents that show how it has determined the environmental and social benefits of this project,” she said.
Waters said there were “clean energy alternatives to this climate-wrecking disaster” that could boost Queensland regional communities hard hit by the crash of the mining boom.