Indian firm presses ahead with controversial Australia coal mine

SYDNEY (AFP) - Indian mining firm Adani vowed on Thursday (Nov 29) to press ahead with the construction of a controversial coal mine in north-eastern Australia, although the project will be dramatically scaled back.

Work on the Carmichael mine - which has attracted considerable controversy in Australia - could get underway within weeks.

Adani said it would fund the multi-billion-dollar project itself, after almost a decade of financial and regulatory jousting.

"We will now begin developing a smaller open cut mine, comparable to many other Queensland coal mines," said Adani Mining CEO Lucas Dow.

The plan is to produce around 28 million tonnes of coal per year.

That is half the amount originally projected, but still roughly equivalent to the total annual coal exports of Mongolia or Kazakhstan.

Most of the coal from the Carmichael mine is expected to be sent directly to India, which is among the world's largest consumers of the fossil fuel.

India - with a population of over one billion people - generates more than half its electricity from coal, creating huge demand that shapes markets well beyond the country's borders.

Environmental groups decried Adani's decision and called on the government to step in and block it.

The project will be "terribly damaging for our climate", said the Australian Conservation Foundation.

"It doesn't matter where this coal is burnt - it will hurt Australian communities."

The Australian Marine Conservation Society warned the mine's construction would be another blow to the nearby Great Barrier Reef.

"It defies belief that Adani is hell-bent on pushing ahead with this climate-wrecking mine when Queensland is experiencing record breaking heatwaves, bushfires are burning across the state and our beautiful reef could suffer another major bleaching event this summer," said spokesman Imogen Zethoven.

The Great Barrier Reef has been hit by rising sea temperatures, which are believed to cause coral to expel algae and turn white - hence the term bleaching.

The coral does not die but is much more fragile in a bleached state.