By Ewen Hosie
November 2, 2017 - Muthuraj Guruswamy, Australia general manager of corporate affairs and business development at Indian conglomerate Adani, yesterday provided an update on the status of the company’s Carmichael coal project in Queensland at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne.
Guruswamy, who has extensive business experience in Australia, addressed several criticisms of the company’s project, particularly regarding environment, community and cost. He said Adani took pride in its work with the Indigenous community in Australia in particular, having signed Indigenous land use agreements with four different groups.
In reference to a group of protestors who had gathered outside the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, Guruswamy said: “You will see signs out there saying, ‘No means no’, but from our side we have 294 people saying ‘Yes,’ and one person saying ‘No’.
“Because there are people interested in the Galilee Basin, I have been able to put food on the table for my family; I have worked with the six different players in the Galilee, so I am not going to stand here and feel ashamed that I am working for the mining industry, or Adani for that matter.”
Guruswamy also stressed that despite environmental protests — largely due to the mine’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef — Adani had met its UN sustainability targets for all three elements of the Carmichael project, including sea, rail and the mine itself.
Guruswamy also delved into some of Adani’s large-scale renewable projects and community investment, including the Kamuthi Solar Power Project, which he cited as the world’s largest at 648 megawatt capacity, at least until it is usurped by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the UAE (most media now report the 1500 megawatt Tengger Desert Solar Park in China as the largest in the world, however).
He also explained that Adani is a major manufacturer of solar panels, with production of up to 1.2 gigawatts per year; Adani, he says, recognises the energy gap India needs to fill, since electricity use per capita in India in much lower than the global average. He cited per capita figures off the top of his head for India and Australia of 780 and 10400 kilowatts per year, respectively (3500 globally), though actual 2015 Central Statistics Office and 2014 Central Intelligence Agency statistics state figures of 1122 and 9742 kilowatts per year for these countries (2674 globally), which still represents a wide gap.
This part of Guruswamy’s speech perhaps served as retort to the company’s sometimes negative image in the media of late. He described Adani as a ‘nation-building’ company that wanted to give back to both India and Australia. In India, Guruswamy stated that Adani supported up to 10,000 children with improved schooling facilities:
“At Adani, we believe in investing back in the community,” he explained, “particularly in India, where we talk about giving education to the girls, and simple things like toilet facilities, sewerage in villages and medical treatment.
“One thing people are not aware of about India is that there is no safety net like in Australia or America,” he added. “In India if I lose my job, or my children are not taking care of me, I will literally be out on the street if I do not have a house.
“We take pride in talking about nation building; if you don’t have education the country is not going to grow and it comes back to Australia, and our work with Indigenous communities […] I am sure when we start shipping coal in 2020 we will be able to provide a whole lot more to these communities.”
Guruswamy’s speech was briefly interrupted halfway through by environmentalist protestors, who sang chants of “Hey hey, hey ho, Adani’s mine has got to go!” They were quickly removed by site security, and Guruswamy, while visibly embarrassed, continued without comment.
Guruswamy also explained that the Carmichael coal project, though it had been reported as the largest coal mine in the world at 60 million tonnes capacity, would actually start at about 27 million tonnes, and use trucks, shovels, and 388km of railway line.